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The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) is one of the areas of response identified by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) as part of the Cluster Approach. The availability of robust and reliable information and communications technology (ICT) is critically important to the successful functioning of all the clusters, and the broader humanitarian community, as well as for ensuring personal security for aid workers. The ETC provides clearly defined services to ensure timely, predictable, and effective inter-agency telecommunications to support humanitarian operations in emergencies.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is the Global ETC Lead Agency and the Provider of Last Resort (PoLR). WFP works in close collaboration and partnership with humanitarian organizations to fulfil the ETC mandate and objectives.
As lead of the ETC, WFP is responsible for ensuring overall coordination of activities on the ground in close collaboration with eventual local ICT Working Groups (ICTWGs).
In an emergency operation, ETC Services are provided a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in humanitarian emergencies.
Staff from all humanitarian organizations can use ETC services, regardless of membership. Representatives from aid organizations interested in participating in inter-agency ICT services and information-sharing can attend local working group meetings.
ETC activities are field-driven, with plans and projects reviewed and endorsed by local working groups.
Within 48 hours of a disaster, the ETC provides vital security communications services and voice and internet connectivity to assist humanitarian workers in their life-saving operations. Within four weeks, ETC services are expanded for continued emergency relief.
Services are deployed in defined ‘common operational areas’, i.e. areas where the approved by the Humanitarian Country Team in which the majority of UN agencies and & NGOs are present. Such areas are generally defined through an assessment, approved by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), and formally requested by the Resident Coordinator (RC) or Humanitarian Coordinator (HC).based.
The ETC provides the following services in emergencies:
Voice and Data Communications
The following services relate to overall coordination and implementation of ETC security, voice and data communications on the ground:
- Implementation of or collaboration with existing, regular inter-agency (Cluster, ICTWG) meetings. Take on leadership of such groups if and when appropriate;
- Assessment of security, voice and data communication needs for the humanitarian community, identification of gaps and preparation of recommendations and/ or project proposal(s);
- Definition of project document with clear budget and submission for approval; fund-raising, regular project reporting, final handover/ closure reporting, donor reporting; and all project related activities;
- Coordination of the preparation of project funding proposals documentation for inter-agency requirements such as Flash Appeals, CERF requests and input in the Consolidated Appeals Process;
- Definition of handover or project closure strategy for the project, with either handover of the project to an ETC partner, or a controlled project close-down, in agreement with the HCT/RC/HC;
- Act as the single focal point with government authorities on behalf of the humanitarian community for all ETC related matters.
Security Communications Services
The ETC will ensure the provision of a common security communications backbone, based on findings in the assessment, to facilitate security support measures. The following provides a summary of the scope of the services that will be provided, and the responsibilities of the individual service provider and the humanitarian partners.
Security Communications Services include:
- Assessment of common security telecommunication infrastructure needs for the humanitarian community, and preparation of recommendations and/ or project proposal(s)
- Establishment and maintenance of one or more radio rooms operating as per MOSS standard, including recruitment, training and management of the radio operators
- VHF repeaters to cover the operational area (typically there will be a separate repeater available for the NGO community)
- VHF and HF radios, installed in the radio room, to monitor the networks
- Satellite telephone installed in the radio room, as a backup system to radio networks
- Frequency, call-sign and selcall coordination and management
- Training of users, through a dedicated radio trainer.
In areas that have no existing security telecommunications infrastructure, the following basic services will be provided within 48 hours upon receiving authorization to travel into the affected area
- 1 x VHF repeater
- 1 x VHF base radio
- 1 x HF base radio
- 1 x Satellite telephone
Security Communications Services that are NOT provided by the ETC:
- Provision of personal or vehicle radio equipment for individual organizations
- Procurement of equipment for or on behalf of organizations or partners
- Clearance of customs or the provision of equipment for individual organizations, unless previously arranged on one-to-one basis
- Programming of radios or other equipment belonging to individual organizations (technical assistance may be provided on a “best effort” basis if or when personnel is available)
- Installation or maintenance of radio equipment or electrical power equipment for any individual organizations
- Assessment or establishment of MOSS compliance for individual organizations.
Voice and Data Communications Services
The ETC will ensure the provision of common data communications services, within the defined common operational areas, based on findings in the assessment. The following provides a summary of the scope of the services that will be provided, and the responsibilities of the individual service provider and the humanitarian partners.
Data Communications Services include:
Initial phase - within 48 hours upon receiving authorization to travel into the affected area:
- Basic voice facilities
- Web-based email access
- Basic printing services.
Initial phase services will be replaced, within 48 hours of obtaining import approval from the local authorities, by the following equipment and services:
- Wireless data-connectivity from one internet “hot spot”
- Voice facilities
- Linking central site to individual agencies in remote location (Up to five sites will be linked however this number may change based on the on-the-ground assessment.) Note: geographical conditions may prevent linking in some situations.
Agency Responsibilities NOT included in the Data Communications Services:
- Connectivity of staff to internet hot spots
- Provision/ procurement and support of all local ICT equipment and applications for individual agencies’ staff (PCs, laptop, printers and applications, laptop security, including firewalls and virus software)
- Local Area Network (LAN) implementation for individual agencies.
As lead of the ETC, WFP will attempt to support all agencies, however, if an agency is outside the common area and cannot be directly supported, assistance will be provided, via coordination, for this agency to acquire its own network connectivity.
Shared wireless internet connectivity from ‘hotspot’
Basic voice telephony
Security Communications services
Two-way VHF radio networks to cover common operational areas
Security compliant Communications Centres (COMCENs)
Radio frequency and call-sign coordination
Training of radio operations and users.
Customer Support services
Help desk for technical assistance
Basic printing, copying, scanning
Liaison with government authorities for ETC related matters
Development of all project related documents
Regular meetings and collaboration with existing groups
Transition to post-emergency / reconstruction phase.
Information Management services
Dedicated ETC information-sharing and collaboration platform
Standards for common ICT equipment and procedures
Platform for directory services containing contact information
Standardized and interoperable platforms and procedures.
Communications services provided by the ETC in the different phases of an emergency operation are outlined in the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster Service Catalogue.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is nominated global lead of the ETC, responsible for building strong relationships with the partner network and for ensuring predictable and effective inter-agency response.
To enhance response predictability, WFP is also normally the lead organization at the country level. The ETC country lead has responsibility for coordinating the deployment and implementation of security communications and internet connectivity services and also must fulfill the role of ‘Provider of Last Resort'.
In close collaboration with the ETC network of partners, WFP is coordinating ETC 2020 efforts which will see the cluster evolve from being primarily a service provider, to broker, facilitator and convenor of technology in emergency response.
For more information about the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), visit the IT Humanitarian Emergency Platform: http://ictemergency.wfp: www.ETCluster.org or email: ictemergency@wfpGlobal.ETC@wfp.org