Services for Communities (S4C)

Communication has to work both ways, with humanitarians listening to the population they are trying to help.

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Our strategy

ETC provides Services for Communities (S4C), enabling populations 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.

 

1. 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.

 

2. 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.

Libya

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Since the fall of the government in 2011, Libya has continued to struggle with armed conflict and ongoing violence, leaving an estimated 900,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. In 2019, the Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) led a communication needs assessment that revealed while 97% of respondents have access to phones, 54% do not have sufficient information about humanitarian assistance.

With the support of the the Government of Luxembourg, the ETS is bridging this gap by establishing Tawasul (“communication” in Arabic) Common Feedback Mechanism (CFM) in the form of a single, toll-free, country-wide hotline number that affected populations can call to obtain information on humanitarian assistance programs; submit their feedback; and get referrals to the humanitarian organizations that are best-suited to handle their needs. In turn, the CFM helps humanitarians work more efficiently towards meeting those needs.

Through partnerships with 6 UN agencies and 5 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the CFM particularly aims to assist women, children, Internally Displaced People (IDPs), migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and digitally illiterate individuals. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the ETS-managed call centre now has a dual purpose as it is acting as a nationwide COVID-19 information channel, as requested by the Libyan Ministry of Health’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Trained operators and volunteer doctors provide information, raise awareness of the virus and review symptoms using NCDC guidelines and refer potential cases to the NCDC. To date, over 8,000 calls have been answered and over 400 potential COVID-19 cases referred to the NCDC.

PROJECT DATES: 16 February 2020 – Present  

Central African Republic

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Armed conflict, systemic violence and widespread displacement have impacted communities in the Central African Republic (CAR) since the protection crisis erupted in 2013, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety.

In 2019, the ETC assessed the communication and technology needs of internally displaced people (IDP) in three sites across CAR. The assessment found that affected communities do not have adequate access to lifesaving information on the humanitarian assistance available to them. To address this, the ETC designed three key initiatives to improve people’s access to vital information through key communication tools.

Hosted by the Central African Red Cross, the Information and Learning Hub in Bangassou will empower affected communities to develop digital skills and help them to connect with humanitarians. 

In partnership with 25 NGOs and eight UN agencies, a Common Feedback Mechanism (CFM) in Bria  and other IDP sites across CAR will enable affected communities to contact humanitarians to explain their needs and to request assistance. In turn, the CFM will help humanitarians work more efficiently towards meeting those needs.

In collaboration with INTERSOS, designated phone booths in Bria’s IDP camp will enable affected populations – particularly women – to communicate with their families and to contact humanitarian helplines free-of-charge.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the ETC has supported the country’s Ministry of Health to set up a toll-free COVID-19 helpline. This will combat misinformation surrounding the pandemic, encourage early detection of the virus and ultimately improve the safety of communities. The ETC is also repurposing and expanding the designated phone booths initiative to enable those who lack access to personal phones to contact the COVID-19 helpline.

PROJECT DATES: 1 June 2019 – Present

Mozambique

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: On 14 March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall in southern Mozambique, causing catastrophic damage to infrastructure, destroying livelihoods and leaving an estimated 1.85 million people in need of aid. The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) partnered with the National Forum of Community Radios in Mozambique (FORCOM) – a governing body of 51 stations – to assess and rehabilitate six community radio stations severely damaged in Sofala province. With limited access to media and low literacy rates, radio plays a central role in keeping local communities informed in Mozambique. Thanks to the ETC and its partners, rehabilitated radio stations in Beira, Dondo, Buzi, Gorongosa and Nhamatanda now disseminate key information to more than 1.9 million listeners, helping to reach the most vulnerable including women and children.

PROJECT DATES: 14 May 2019 – November 2019 (Completed)

Bangladesh

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Since 25 August 2017, more than 655,000 Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar. From the onset of the crisis, access to information, including mobile connectivity, has been a key challenge for the Rohingyas. Following recommendations from its joint assessment with Internews, the Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) provided critical Internet connectivity and multimedia kits in 40 Information Hubs hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). With the support of Internews and Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC), the ETS also developed a mobile application - ETC CONNECT - to help humanitarians collect feedback on the needs of the affected populations. Training for the mobile application was also provided to staff from the World Food Programme (WFP), MedAir, BBC Media and Communication with Communities Working (CWC) Group.

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