Services for Communities (S4C)

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

Table of contents

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 been plagued with armed conflict and ongoing violence, which have left an estimated 823,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. To improve access to aid and information, the Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) is implementing a Common Feedback Mechanism (CFM) in Libya with the support of the Government of Luxembourg. In accordance with Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) recommendations, the CFM is a toll-free, country-wide hotline number for affected populations regardless of gender including for internally displaced people (IDPs), host communities, refugees and migrant workers. The CFM provides information on humanitarian organizations, assistance programmes as well as enables affected populations to provide feedback on the aid they receive. In turn, the CFM helps humanitarians work more efficiently towards meeting those needs.

PROJECT DATES: 4 September 2019 – 31 December  2020 (Ongoing)

Central African Republic

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Armed conflict, systemic violence and widespread displacement have brought the Central African Republic (CAR) on the brink of a large-scale humanitarian crisis. Local communities have been left with little to no access to information. In January 2019, the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) ran Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) needs assessments at three Internally Displaced People (IDP) sites: Bangassou, Kaga Bandaro and Bria. The ETC team conducted interviews and focus group discussions with nearly 270 people. Based on the findings, the ETC designed key initiatives to improve people’s access to vital information through adequate communication tools.

Hosted by the Central African Red Cross, the Information and Learning Hub in Bangassou will allow affected communities to develop digital skills and help them better connect with humanitarians. In Bria, and in collaboration with INTERSOS, Designated Phone Booths in the IDP camp will enable affected populations – particularly women – to communicate with their families and contact humanitarian hotlines free-of-charge. Through partnerships with 25 NGOs and 8 UN Agencies, a Common Feedback Mechanism (CFM) in Bria as well as in IDP sites across CAR will improve the ability of affected communities to contact humanitarians. In turn, the CFM will help humanitarians work more efficiently towards meeting those needs.

PROJECT DATES: 1 June 2019 – 31 December 2019 (Ongoing)

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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