IGF 2022 WS #292 connectivity at the critical time: during and after crises

Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 (08:00 UTC)

Organizer 1: Shadrach Ankrah, Ghana Youth IGF

Organizer 2: Innocent Adriko, Digital Literacy Initiative

Organizer 3: Shradha Pandey, Youth Special Interest Group ISOC

Organizer 4: Maxwell Beganim, Ghana Youth IGF

Organizer 5: Elnur Karimov, Kyushu University

Speaker 1: Eileen Kwiponya, Civil Society, African Group

Speaker 2: Shah Zahidur Rahman, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 3: Ernestina Lamiorkor Tawiah, Private Sector, African Group

Speaker 4: Ethan Mudavanhu, Private Sector, African Group

Speaker 5: Caleb Kwabena Ayitey Kuphe, Civil Society, African Group


Shradha Pandey, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Elnur Karimov, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)
  1. Who ensures the Internet works during a disaster or crisis?
  2. What are the regulatory frameworks governing the deployment of physical infrastructure (telecommunications and the power grid)?
  3. How will organizations or communities prepare to mitigate the negative effects of a disaster or crisis on critical technology infrastructure?
  4. How do all stakeholders work together to solicit the resources and provide capacity building to plan and respond to disasters using ICTs?
  5. What resources are needed to deploy and maintain communication infrastructures during and after crises?

Connection with previous Messages:

This session builds on some of the IGF 2021 messages on Universal Access and Meaningful Connectivity issue area in the following aspect. The proposed session builds on one of the IGF 2021 messages that mentioned that whilst access to the Internet must be supported, it also must be ensured that the open Internet access goes hand in hand with Infrastructure deployment especially for developing countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states. Emergency telecommunications deploys Hastily Formed Networks (HFN), providing connectivity to affected communities and refugees that ensures the Internet remains open to these communities.

Again, the proposed session is advancing the one of the IGF 2021 messages that mentioned that, “For all stakeholders working on connectivity and access in community contexts, it is vital to map out their community networks. Data from these exercises can feed into building participatory training curriculums or refining existing curriculums. Community networks are also struggling to have a financial sustainability model” As one of the outcomes of this session is to provide capacity building to communities to be capable of deploying community networks that will serve the connectivity needs of communities and at the same time enable communities to deploy telecommunication infrastructures during an emergency. We also look to collaborate with more stakeholders, especially the government, to prioritize the deployment of community networks in under-served communities.

In addition, the proposed session builds on another IGF 2021 messages, which focus on increased support and international collaboration and partnerships to tackle key issues related to online education and learning and a lack of devices. With the Emergency Telecommunication Cluster strategy, countries can collaborate to provide the logistics needed to provide connectivity to affected students to continue their studies online. Partnerships will ensure that all stakeholders work together to provide the needed devices and services to under-served communities even during a stable atmosphere.


4. Quality Education
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
13. Climate Action
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: This session targets SDGs 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 17, and how ICTs are helping provide relief services to responders and communities. SDG 4, 7 & 9: Emergency telecommunication provides infrastructures that during their deployments are meant to serve the temporal communications needs of communities affected by a disaster, but with the resilient and robust nature of these infrastructures, they serve these communities for many years. Providing capacity building to communities is critical to the sustainability of telecommunication infrastructures. These networks also provide a means for educators and learners to continue their studies when there is a disaster. This process involves members gaining digital skills through the use of Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) which contributes to quality education provision. During disasters, the grids get destroyed which cuts the power supply and that means, no electricity to power the switches, access points, routers, and other devices that rely on power to operate. Through Emergency telecommunication or community networks, sustainable energy systems such as solar are being deployed to power the infrastructures and the personal devices of the communities. These power systems are renewable, environment friendly, and affordable. SDGs 11 & 13: ICTs provide the communications needs of humanitarian responders. This allows responders to quickly do analysis and site surveys, and send these data from the site to the headquarters to plan how to quickly for temporary settlement and then restore the damaged towns or cities. Again, ICTs help national agencies such as the meteorological agencies plan and monitor for disasters capable of occurring to be able to mitigate them. SDG 17: All stakeholders including humanitarian responders, telecommunications organizations, governments, and others who are working towards achieving each of the SDGs, collaborate during and after a disaster to provide the communications, education, health, safety, accommodation, and other needs of communities.

Providing communications during disaster response has been a great challenge for many communities and countries. Challenges linked with providing communications to humanitarian responders, relief agencies, and affected communities continue to hinder disaster response efforts. The 2020 United Nations Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC2020) strategy has fostered multi-stakeholder collaboration necessary to provide the logistics, training, and services to meet the communications demand in disconnected communities during and after disasters.

The local community, civil society, the government, disaster management and humanitarian agencies, and international organizations are key stakeholders who work together to provide connectivity to these disaster-affected communities. Communication, like food, water and shelter is a critical need during an emergency. Communication technologies are critical to respond and manage damages, especially in developing countries or local communities where there are lack of infrastructures or resources to tackle these disasters. The Internet and other communication technologies have made it possible to communicate with families and friends afar, search for information, work and reply to emails online. But when a disaster strikes, communication infrastructures are damaged and there are disruptions in power supply. Our devices such as personal computers, smartphones, and tablets become useless except for playing music and games, taking pictures, flashlights and other offline features can be used.

Without robust and resilient communication infrastructures like the ones used in Hastily Formed Networks (which provides voice, video, text, and other data types), when disasters destroy existing infrastructures, a community can be cut off from the Internet for a long period and if no quick intervention is made, this can take months for these infrastructures to be restored for a community to have power and get their devices connected back to the Internet. There are 2.9 billion people who are already offline according to the 2021 ITU Fact and Figures. This is likely to increase when crises continuously occur and there’s no quick intervention to get communities connected again.

During this session, we will present examples of communication infrastructure deployments used in disaster response by various humanitarian and technical organizations. Examples of global crises that have received humanitarian assistance include (a) the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, (b) Hurricane Maria Disaster in 2017, (c) Beirut Explosion on 4 August 2020, (d) and the Syrian Refugee Crisis. When a community is faced with any of such crises, access to communication infrastructures and the Internet is critical in disseminating information in real-time for humanitarian responders and the community affected at large. Connectivity is also needed for students to continuously learn online and companies to quickly relocate and continue working. Access to a resilient, robust, and secure telecommunications infrastructure during a disaster is critical.

This session brings together representatives from humanitarian organizations, the technical community, civil society, the private sector, and academia to discuss the challenges that emergency responders and communities face during the deployment of emergency telecommunication infrastructures and possible solutions to these challenges. We will also discuss ways in which the Internet has helped provide relief to some communities who have faced crises in the past. In addition, we will look at the importance of deploying emergency communication services, the deployment technologies to use (Radios, VSAT, 802.11 WiFi and cabling, and sustainable energy), and the humanitarian context (collaboration between the various stakeholders to provide the connectivity).

Expected Outcomes

This is aimed at producing a number of follow-up activities:

  1. Produce a report for the session and provide key experience shared to help organizations and communities in deploying emergency telecommunication infrastructures.
  2. Seek to collaborate with different organizations to help train communities to become more efficient and effective in restoring power and connectivity and improving information sharing during an emergency response.
  3. Form a Dynamic Coalition on Emergency Telecommunications. This coalition will collaborate with various stakeholders to ensure the continuity of discussions and events related to emergency telecommunications.

Hybrid Format:

The session will ensure an inclusive and interactive discussion between the onsite and online audience. But if for any reason a speaker would not be able to participate in the session in Ethiopia due to an unforeseen circumstance, the online participation tool used (zoom client) will accommodate all the needs of the speaker.

Session Discussion Facilitation

As this session’s format is a round table - U-shape (90 minutes), the onsite moderator will introduce speakers and explain the discussion topic. After that, the moderator opens the floor for the speakers to engage in an opening discussion, and then participants are later engaged in the discussion in a round table U-shape format. We will discussion the importance of deploying telecommunication infrastructures to communities affected by disasters, and the deployment technologies to use (such as VSAT, WLAN networking, mobile satellite connectivity, point-to-point, and sustainable energy) to ensure affected communities are connected to the Internet. We will also touch on the challenges of deploying emergency telecommunication infrastructures and ways to tackle these issues.

Speakers and participants will share their ideas on ways to provide connectivity during an emergency or experiences of initiatives that have provided connectivity to humanitarian workers and communities affected by disasters. We will also discuss the roles played by each stakeholder in ensuring the connectivity of affected areas.

The session’s agenda is as follows:

  • Session opening by onsite moderator: The onsite moderator will introduce the session topic, and the speakers then highlight what the session aims to achieve. (5 minutes)
  • Humanitarian Context: The moderator asks the first opening questions and then each speaker gives a remark on the questions. This round provides an overview of the humanitarian system, the different stakeholders involved in humanitarian response, such as the partners of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), humanitarian responders, and how response efforts are coordinated. This round also discusses ways in which an individual can prepare themselves for a possible disaster. (35 minutes)
  • Deployments: The second round discusses how responders build and maintain emergency telecommunications networks. We discuss the best methods of getting the internet connection to where it is needed when conventional infrastructures are damaged or obstructed. (35 minutes)
  • Q & A: At the end of the discussions, participants will be given the opportunity to ask questions on issues discussed for further explanation.  (10 minutes)
  • Closing Remarks: The rapporteur will give a summary of key points discussed at the end of the session. This summary will feed into the outcome activities and the way forward. The moderator then gives the final words to conclude the session. (5 minutes)
Online Participation

Usage of IGF Official Tool.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions


Report: IGF 2022 WS #292 Connectivity at the critical time during and after crises

The session was moderated by Innocent Adriko who gave a background information and introduction to the session.

Ethan Mudavanhu started by acknowledging that everyone has a part to play when it comes to preparedness before or post-crisis. He said civil society’s role might be to provide strategies on how to minimize damages to critical infrastructure. He also mentioned the need to define the roles of each stakeholder around national emergency telecommunications plans and integrate those plans as climate change and adoption policy priorities.

He also mentioned that government has a role in regulating future technologies in emergency preparedness and resilience of internet connections. He added that, that could be achieved by envisioning satellite and the Internet of Things (IoT) as part of the emergency system which can be used as search and rescue alternatives.

He again mentioned partnership is important for the government, the private sector, and civil society to create better solutions and activation protocols. He gave examples of partnerships that helped in mitigating damages and ensure connectivity. One example was in Australia where the Stand program was a disaster satellite service and the first to be rolled out through funding provided by the government which was strengthening telecommunications against national disasters. He urged the need for Africa to consider a combined effort of terrestrial and extraterrestrial going forward.

Shah Zahidur Rayamajhi noted that connectivity issues might be looked at by the national and local authorities as each country has National Disaster Management Organizations. These management disaster management organizations are included with ICTs, ISPs, humanitarian organizations, and civil society organizations. He again noted the need to look at the option and evaluate connectivity that is relevant to the affected population due to a disaster.

He also mentions internet connectivity solutions for the affected population and designing solutions depending on each context and considering the different needs such as human, socio-cultural, economic, and affordability. He added that connectivity solutions bundled with internet, voice, SMS, and other data services are understood to be the best solution. The need to deploy various VSATs and WI-FI accessories through local partners or other stakeholders who may help in the deployment and service restoration process.

He highlighted the need to have portable connections and ensure the privacy and protection of data services provided to the affected populations. He again mentioned that after the emergency has been restored, the service has to be maintained and operated for a certain period because the telecom service provider might be affected and not be able to provide services to the community. He suggested that community networks can be deployed to support the connectivity efforts of response activities during and after crises.

CALEB KWABENA AYITEY KUPHE on his side started by defining a critical infrastructure as a system and an asset, whether physical or virtual in our digital world. In terms of crisis, there is a need to understand the three (3) elements of critical infrastructure; the physical, cyber, and human. We must also understand the effectiveness of the critical infrastructure for ensuring the effective functioning of the economy as that is an essential factor in determining the location of the economic activities or sectors that can develop in a country.

He highlighted that developing countries need to understand the framework and plan for the infrastructure system and know how to protect the critical infrastructure sector by understanding the risks involved and knowing where the vulnerability lies. He also added that collaboration between stakeholders like governments, the private sector, and civil society is important. He said the government and the private sector can help with some resources like routers, switches, computers, et cetera while civil society, academia, and the technology community can also collaborate to provide training to deploy the telecommunications infrastructure.

He again noted that developing countries must be able to resource personnel that can understand the emergency response. He referred to the collaboration between the Internet Society Ghana chapter and NetHope trained people in disaster management and he stated that he believes when we come together and provide resources for such people, we will be able to manage critical infrastructures.  He concluded by stating the need for developing countries to double the current investment level in emergency response projects.

EILEEN KWIPONYA started by noting that disasters can strike at any time giving Covid-19 as an example of such an emergency which can happen anywhere and at any time. She said the pandemic brought the world to a standstill which resulted in the closure of companies and some of them had to let their employees work from home. She highlighted that those that worked from home needed laptops and internet connectivity which partnership between stakeholders helped to solicit resources to enable continuity of work and daily life activities. She added that schools had to continue running and the government came in ad worked with organizations to solicit resources such as laptops and provide internet connectivity in schools to enable students to learn.

She again noted that ITU plays a critical role in disaster risk reduction and management by supporting its member states in the process of disaster management through designing of national emergency telecommunication plan whereby in 2023 all countries should have a national emergency telecommunication plan as part of their national disaster risk reduction strategies. She continued to add that low-income countries are left out when it comes to having a national emergency telecommunication plan and it will be difficult for a country to manage a disaster without a plan. She stated that it is important for governments and local stakeholders to come and develop emergency telecommunication plans to enable their response to disasters without the need to seek help from outside.

She noted that civil society can also contribute by creating awareness and providing capacity building through training communities in emergency response for them to be able to respond to emergencies when they strike. She highlighted that funding is a critical aspect when managing a disaster.

Ernestina Lamiorkor Tawia noted some of the basic things that the telecom sector does during a crisis. She highlighted that during a crisis, the telecom sector helps to make people stay safe, connected, and informed by notifying people of the occurring disasters, where disasters are being hit. This she said, helps to save lives.

She acknowledged the need for backup for critical infrastructure as communities don’t have to depend solely on telecom companies for their communications as they wouldn’t know what will happen to the infrastructure during a disaster. The need to get backup batteries that would last long and generators to provide power to communications infrastructures in the case a telecom infrastructure fails due to a power outage.