Hi-tech conferencing helps UNDP coordinate anti-Ebola action

Jan 22, 2015

Women in Sierra Leone. Donated conferencing kits have helped UNDP coordinate support at all levels in the worst affected countries. PHOTO: UNDP Sierra Leone

Companies provide communications kits to boost coordination against Ebola in West Africa.

New York - In the fight against Ebola, good coordination can ultimately mean more lives saved. Telecommunications kits help aid coordination, cut response times, limit unnecessary travel and reduce needless contact in risk-prone areas.

Through donations of videoconferencing kits and boosts to internet bandwidth worth over 1 million dollars from U.S.-based companies Polycom and Airbus DS, UNDP offices in the three countries hardest hit by Ebola can better coordinate action on the ground and with the international community.

"As the crisis unfolded in September, we were faced with some very old videoconferencing equipment. This made inter-office exchange extremely difficult. We couldn't even hear our colleagues in other offices,” said Carine Yengayeng, Deputy Resident Representative for Operations with UNDP Sierra Leone.  

“The new equipment and bandwidth upgrades made all the difference in streamlining our communications with a high level of performance and satisfaction. We meet every other week with our headquarters Crisis Board, other affected countries, and programme staff, and now the meetings happen without a single hitch," she added.

In September 2014 Polycom provided, pro bono, videoconferencing kits to UNDP in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, related UN clinics and other UNDP country offices in the region. The kits offer improved videoconferencing capabilities, so that offices, clinics, sub-offices and regional hubs can better communicate, enabling improved coordination.

The company also donated 30 videoconferencing practitioner carts which offer mobile videoconferencing centres that are rapidly deployable and require no complex or permanent setup. Designed specifically for healthcare environments, they can be very useful for crisis situations, remote areas and pandemics.

Barry Morris, Polycom’s President of Public Sector said:  "We are honored to support this humanitarian response effort, because our partnership goes beyond everyday business relationships; we are here to help UNDP deliver the kind of results that help the world be a better place. It occurred to us that our recent successes in the medical industry could be applied to crisis support as well."

Mr. Morris added that the UNDP-Polycom partnership extends beyond the Ebola outbreak and that the company's support should match UNDP's needs in the field. So far, videoconferencing kits have also been deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Senegal, and reserves are ready for future crises.

Airbus DS, a satellite Internet services provider to UNDP, contributed bandwidth upgrades and reduced internet rates for UNDP’s offices in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Bandwidth was doubled for UNDP’s Guinea office, leading to far improved and uninterrupted emergency response meetings.

For its part, UNDP has worked hard to boost communications technology in crisis areas. Through its Office of Information Systems and Technology, support to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has included better infrastructure, telephony and internet connectivity as well as solar powered solutions like solar panels and solar powered lanterns for staff.

Contact information

William Allen – UNDP ICT Office  
Tel: +1 212-906-5355 william.allen@undp.org

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