About the ETC

The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) is a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies. The ETC is one of the 11 clusters designated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).

Overview

Timely, predictable, and effective information and communications technology (ICT) services provided by the ETC support improved:

  • Response and coordination among humanitarian organizations
  • Operational security environment for staff and assets
  • Decision-making through timely access to critical information.

Within 48 hours of a disaster, the ETC provides vital security communications services and voice and internet connectivity to assist the response community in their life-saving operations. Within four weeks, ETC services are expanded for continued emergency relief.

Through its ETC2020 strategy, the cluster is evolving from being primarily a service provider, to broker, facilitator and convenor of technology in emergency response.

The ETC VISION

The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), in partnership with leading edge technology companies and local telecoms providers, facilitates an environment for emergency response which allows humanitarian responders, citizens and governments to have a seamless, resilient and principled communications experience to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The ETC is a visionary and a leader in convening the humanitarian technology community, and brokering full service communication solutions between private industry, governments, humanitarians, and communities.

The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) is constantly evolving to make innovative and more effective humanitarian assistance possible – this strengthens local communities as first-responders and facilitates delivery of digital aid.

The ETC seeks to ensure that all those responding to humanitarian emergencies - including affected communities - have access to vital communications services. 


ETC Strategic Priorities


The ETC facilitates connectivity services for humanitarian responders, while also expanding the types and recipients of those services. The four strategic priorities are: 

  • Communications as aid to enable communities to access connectivity when they need it most – in times of crisis. 
  • Improved and decentralized response readiness to ensure local people, processes and equipment solutions are ready to activate rapid communications responses to disasters. 
  • Increased communications resilience to disasters to help affected governments safeguard systems and prepare for responses when disasters strike
  • Enhanced communications and energy to enable a wider group of traditional and non-traditional humanitarian responders to save and improve lives.

MEETING EVOLVING HUMANITARIAN NEEDS

Communications technology has completely changed the way people live, connect and find information. It is also changing the way people are impacted by, and respond to, emergencies. At the same time, the humanitarian landscape is evolving with more disasters, more complexity and therefore more responders. 

The ETC has therefore become more agile, localized and more connected, reaching more people by becoming an enabler through connectivity. The ETC makes it possible for affected populations and governments to be better connected to better manage their responses to emergencies. 

ETC provides services aimed at the affected population, enabling communities affected by crises to access life-saving information and communicate with humanitarians and each other through technology. 

Information and communication are critical forms of aid without which local communities cannot access vital services or make informed decisions for themselves and their communities. ETC provides a range of technology services that improve the accessibility, affordability and usability of information and communication tools for local communities in sudden-onset and protracted crises. These services fall within two broad categories: (1) two-way communication between humanitarian and local communities and (2) access to information among local communities. Each category is discussed in detail below.

To inform service design, ETC conducts an Information, Communication and Technology Needs Assessment for Affected Populations. The assessment evaluates local communities’ information needs, access to telecommunications infrastructure, information consumption preferences, perceptions of humanitarian programs, digital literacy, affordability and education levels. Based on the assessment findings, ETC identifies the exact information, communication and technological needs of local communities, and designs projects that can best address these needs in each given context.

To ensure successful project implementation, ETC works with key stakeholders, including humanitarian agencies; donors; national and local governments; private sector; community leaders; journalists; broadcasters; faith-based organizations; Mobile Network Operators; Internet Service Providers; and local communities themselves.

 

TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION BETWEEN HUMANITARIAN AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Communication is a two-way process. Local communities and assistance providers are equal stakeholders in a humanitarian response. Local communities have the right to communicate with assistance providers before, during and after assistance is provided, and assistance providers are obliged to communicate with local communities.

ETC establishes effective two-way communication systems, including common feedback mechanisms (CFM) and various platform services, which facilitate dialogue between local communities and assistance providers, both local and international. Through these communication systems, the affected populations can interact with humanitarians in a coordinated manner and ensure their voices are heard by the responding agency. Humanitarians, in turn, get an insight into people’s needs; make better informed programming decisions; and promote collective accountability to local communities, while consolidating limited resources that are currently only available to humanitarian organizations individually.

 

ACCESS TO INFORMATION

Access to information is a form of assistance, which is as important as water, food and shelter. The affected communities have the right to accurate and appropriate information in order to get the help they need, locate missing family or friends, make informed decisions about their lives, achieve greater self-reliance and ultimately transform their future.

ETC enables access to information among the affected populations by providing the required technology and infrastructure that are desperately lacking in crises-affected countries, including data connectivity; calling services; power supply for device charging; and technology solutions for local radio broadcasters.