Inveneo Eric Zan Archives

What’s Sierra Leone Like Almost One Year After the Ebola Virus Hit?

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 20, 2015 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Relief

Inveneo team member Eric Zan serves as a Senior Field Engineer in the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI). He recently explained his thoughts on the ERCI Project and the difference it has been making in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone. Read his story below on what country is like now almost one year after the virus hit.

  1. What is Sierra Leone like one year after the Ebola virus hit?
Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

“Although I haven’t been in Sierra Leone throughout the entire crisis, I can see that Sierra Leone used to be a place where ‘doors were closing’ in almost all areas for the residents. What I mean is that there were serious limits on migration, how much people moved, and where people congregated. In addition, several businesses left Sierra Leone which drastically affected opportunities for individuals. The overall economic landscape was hurt from this, and often people had to change their jobs. And even if you did not contract the Ebola virus your life was still drastically altered.

Today, humanitarian organizations of Sierra Leone are transitioning to more of a “recovery” mode. Ebola is still active there, but it is concentrated in different provinces. Priorities are changing theses days since many regions are not experiencing new patients and are devoting their resources to the economic and social recovery. Not surprisingly communities have experienced different levels of fallout from all this. However, through it all, communication is the biggest factor we are concerned with and it was good to see local communities having trust in the global community.”

  1. What were your daily activities in the ERCI project?
Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.

Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.

“It was constantly different because every day presented new challenges. In general I was the logistics coordinator and helped direct the Field Team on where they could go.

  • I made sure there was a way to gather details and share them with the team about where to go and when to take precautions.
  • I would liaise with our project partners in order to come up with a plan for integrating our equipment into their core network.
  • Also, I’d discuss how to build out each tower in a coordinated way, how to ensure bandwidth strength, and how to monitor the network.

Those items were the “big picture” parts to my day-to-day activities. But they add up when working in a crowded and limited-resource environment.”

  1. How is the ERCI project making a difference?

“First, the Internet will help main hubs coordinate with their field offices because a lot of decision making and resource allocation happens in the capital. Before getting an Internet connection, main offices sometimes had to wait days or weeks to get information about what was going on in the rural areas. By then it’s often too late to respond to the key needs in an efficient way. Second, the organizations can get data back almost instantly. This communication helps them coordinate with other organizations which overall helps paints the big picture for everybody.

Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

As a last note, the Internet generally helps people and organizations be more efficient in their missions, whatever their mission is. This may include having more time for projects, less need for travel, and better cost-effective strategies.”

  1. What precautionary health measures did you and your team take while in Sierra Leone?

“The health measures were mainly based on behavioral changes; they were all behavioral-based policies that we established for the team to follow. The ABCs meant Avoid Body Contact at all times. We were taking our temperatures at least twice a day, and we worked alongside a health a safety member from NetHope from their Icelandic Search and Rescue Team. Also, communication was important and people checked in with me. We also had a group chat on Skype going, and I was constantly coordinating with others in case someone needed to go to the hospital or wasn’t feeling well.”

  1. In your opinion, what ICTs would be the most effective in stopping Ebola from spreading?

“Although many people have mobile phones in Sierra Leone, they may not always be the entire solution. For example, mobile phones are not reliable to transfer large amounts of data. Instead, what is needed is a reliable Internet link and a better system for gathering and aggregating data in an automated way.

Another important part is the building of local capacity. Training is very important and it must be coordinated with local support and knowledge. Information should be made available to communities and more members of an organization’s team, too, and not necessarily to just the Project Coordinator.

Over the last few months I’ve realized that those living in Sierra Leone are incredibly resilient people, and they have so much that they are already offering. Combining these skills with ICT has the potential to play a significant role in bringing an end to this tragic Ebola crisis.”

What's Sierra Leone Like Almost One Year After the Ebola Virus Hit?

  1. Posted by sguser on April 20, 2015 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Relief

Inveneo team member Eric Zan serves as a Senior Field Engineer in the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI). He recently explained his thoughts on the ERCI Project and the difference it has been making in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone. Read his story below on what country is like now almost one year after the virus hit.

  1. What is Sierra Leone like one year after the Ebola virus hit?
Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

“Although I haven’t been in Sierra Leone throughout the entire crisis, I can see that Sierra Leone used to be a place where ‘doors were closing’ in almost all areas for the residents. What I mean is that there were serious limits on migration, how much people moved, and where people congregated. In addition, several businesses left Sierra Leone which drastically affected opportunities for individuals. The overall economic landscape was hurt from this, and often people had to change their jobs. And even if you did not contract the Ebola virus your life was still drastically altered.

Today, humanitarian organizations of Sierra Leone are transitioning to more of a “recovery” mode. Ebola is still active there, but it is concentrated in different provinces. Priorities are changing theses days since many regions are not experiencing new patients and are devoting their resources to the economic and social recovery. Not surprisingly communities have experienced different levels of fallout from all this. However, through it all, communication is the biggest factor we are concerned with and it was good to see local communities having trust in the global community.”

  1. What were your daily activities in the ERCI project?
Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.

Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.

“It was constantly different because every day presented new challenges. In general I was the logistics coordinator and helped direct the Field Team on where they could go.

  • I made sure there was a way to gather details and share them with the team about where to go and when to take precautions.
  • I would liaise with our project partners in order to come up with a plan for integrating our equipment into their core network.
  • Also, I’d discuss how to build out each tower in a coordinated way, how to ensure bandwidth strength, and how to monitor the network.

Those items were the “big picture” parts to my day-to-day activities. But they add up when working in a crowded and limited-resource environment.”

  1. How is the ERCI project making a difference?

“First, the Internet will help main hubs coordinate with their field offices because a lot of decision making and resource allocation happens in the capital. Before getting an Internet connection, main offices sometimes had to wait days or weeks to get information about what was going on in the rural areas. By then it’s often too late to respond to the key needs in an efficient way. Second, the organizations can get data back almost instantly. This communication helps them coordinate with other organizations which overall helps paints the big picture for everybody.

Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

As a last note, the Internet generally helps people and organizations be more efficient in their missions, whatever their mission is. This may include having more time for projects, less need for travel, and better cost-effective strategies.”

  1. What precautionary health measures did you and your team take while in Sierra Leone?

“The health measures were mainly based on behavioral changes; they were all behavioral-based policies that we established for the team to follow. The ABCs meant Avoid Body Contact at all times. We were taking our temperatures at least twice a day, and we worked alongside a health a safety member from NetHope from their Icelandic Search and Rescue Team. Also, communication was important and people checked in with me. We also had a group chat on Skype going, and I was constantly coordinating with others in case someone needed to go to the hospital or wasn’t feeling well.”

  1. In your opinion, what ICTs would be the most effective in stopping Ebola from spreading?

“Although many people have mobile phones in Sierra Leone, they may not always be the entire solution. For example, mobile phones are not reliable to transfer large amounts of data. Instead, what is needed is a reliable Internet link and a better system for gathering and aggregating data in an automated way.

Another important part is the building of local capacity. Training is very important and it must be coordinated with local support and knowledge. Information should be made available to communities and more members of an organization’s team, too, and not necessarily to just the Project Coordinator.

Over the last few months I’ve realized that those living in Sierra Leone are incredibly resilient people, and they have so much that they are already offering. Combining these skills with ICT has the potential to play a significant role in bringing an end to this tragic Ebola crisis.”

How Will Inveneo Monitor 100 Internet Sites in the Future?

  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 10, 2015 in the categories: News

Inveneo has been incredibly busy this past month gearing up to create 25 distribution points that will connect 100 sites with solid, reliable Internet connectivity. As part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project, these new Internet connections will be used by Ebola medical centers or NGOs in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.

Once these connections are made, how will they be managed? Inveneo is already well underway to answer this question: by creating a NOC (Network Operations Center) that will be located in Accra, Ghana.

Our Inveneo Certified ICT Partner in Accra is TechAide, and this past month our team member Bob Marsh travelled to Accra to begin preliminary training for TechAide technicians who will eventually run the NOC. Kafui Prebbie, the current CEO of TechAide, brought several team members to be part of the training: Selassie Anku, TechAide’s main backup engineer, Courage Anku, its primary NOC engineer, and Godfred Prebbie, TechAide’s CTO.

BobNocTraining1TechAide’s engineers and Bob Marsh spent the first day of training focusing on the theoretical and organizational aspects of the Ebola Response program and the hardware configurations that are deployed in the field. The participants worked on exercises with Ubiquiti equipment, concentrating on how to resolve issues. Eventually Inveneo and TechAide will be using a set of sophisticated cloud-based software tools to manage the NOC.

The engineer’s next steps are to read all the elements of the curriculum materials from the training to further their learning. Bob Marsh was excited to see the enthusiasm of the participants, and our current joint effort is to the make sure the NOC is fully operational by March 4th, 2015. In addition, Inveneo’s Project Engineer Eric Zan will be traveling to Accra in mid-February in order to offer more NOC training before he joins other Inveneo workers in Sierra Leone. Inveneo’s Samuel Perales will also provide follow-on operational training and coaching when he returns to Accra from Sierra Leone in early March.

The NOC has been created to offer our 100 newly connected sites:

  1. Monitoring performance to see if there is a problem.
  2. Responding quickly to a reported problem. This may be fast enough that users in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will not be aware of any issue.
  3. Diagnosis and dispatching after a problem is reported. Those working at the NOC will figure out if they can fix the issues remotely or not. If they are unable to fix it from Accra, they will contact the Inveneo ICIP that is geographically closest to the problem.

The NOC in Accra, Ghana will constantly monitor all connected sites. For three months after the NOC launches, TechAide workers will work 8 hour shifts and 6 days a week to ensure any problems are quickly dealt with and Internet access is maintained. We certainly applaud all the hard work and time that they will be putting in! Many thanks to TechAide for their partnership and the great work they are doing to keep an eye on the ERCI program’s 100 Internet-connection locations!

BobNocTraining2