Broadband access supports tsunami relief efforts
Broadband access terminals from the ESA supported project ‘Pacific Skies’ are being used in the Aceh region of Indonesia, scene of the devastating 2004 tsunami. The communications needs of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and local people are being met in an area that suffered severe infrastructural damage.
The service is being deployed in co-operation with the AirPutih Foundation. One of the foundation’s key roles is to provide emergency telecommunication facilities and a media/internet centre for news updates from the area.
The facilities allow data exchange over a wide area and access to such information as homelessness statistics and identification of serviceable roads, information critical to relief workers on the ground.
The media and internet centre is located in the city of Calang, in Aceh Jaya, and is managed in co-operation with the conservation organisation ‘Fauna and Flora International’. It is equipped with five laptops and is open to local people as well as NGOs.
Pacific Skies is a combined effort from the Netherlands based company New Skies and Newtec from Belgium which is providing the network and satellite capacity. The system provides two-way data communication at speeds comparable to a European domestic broadband connection. This provides end users with fast, reliable e-mail, internet and instant messaging services.
Satellite broadband saving lives
Critical care for some of the survivors of the disaster was provided by the hospital ship USNS Mercy. Before wireless internet was available, communication between the ship and shore was by means of voice radio transmissions, which were often garbled.
These difficulties were resolved by the wireless internet connection, which formed a vital part of USNS Mercy’s efforts. The network connection helped expedite the transfer of patients and medical information and became the primary means of communication, enabling lives to be saved.
AirPutih supports the activities of over 30 organisations, including the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Flora & Fauna International, Jesuit Refugee Services, as well as Lembaga Adat Panglima Laot, a locally based aid organisation.
Additionally, AirPutih serves various local government agencies coordinating relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation operations in Aceh and Nias, as well as education institutions such as Syah Kuala University and the Indonesia State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN).