Dadaab is home to the largest crush of refugees in the world – an estimated 500,000. The camps swelled by hundreds of thousands starting in 2011 to hold Somalis who fled the famine and extreme insecurity in their village and are now unable to return. UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Committee) is the lead agency responding to this crisis, and many major humanitarian agencies including Care, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee are operating in Dadaab providing critical services such as food distribution, housing, sanitation and medical relief.  Their teams are stretched to their limits. To make matters that much more difficult, a Somali-based terrorist organization is escalating their activities in and around the camps, making the operations more dangerous for both the refugees and the agencies.

Inveneo response

“I’ll never forget Dadaab. There were hundreds of thousands of people living and working in such difficult conditions in the arid lands of northeast Kenya. Inveneo and NetHope together were able to bring dedicated teams intent on improving connectivity for the humanitarian organizations and for the refugees. And now today, we see such positive impact.” – Jill Costello, Project Manager

In the fall of 2011, Inveneo and partners NetHope and USAID identified opportunities to bring better, more reliable Internet and interagency communications to the many humanitarian agencies working in the Dadaab, Kenya region. Inveneo determined that by working with Cisco’s TacOps we could install and configure a local high-speed network and the Dadaab organizations could immediately begin to collaborate and share information more effectively.

Additionally, we initiated a strategic business and engineering partnership with Orange, a local Kenyan telecom provider, to extend new data services into the Dadaab compound using our long-distance WiFi solutions. NetHope aggregated the demand for the new service among the Dadaab aid community, and we secured agreement from Orange to a preferred pricing arrangement as well as to adequate initial and ongoing capacity.

Inveneo and TacOps also co-designed a high-speed network, “DadaabNet,” to connect the NGOs locally and to enable bandwidth-intensive, intra-agency collaboration technologies like file sharing, video conferencing and voice over IP telephony applications.

WiFi training for Orange and local partner staff

March 2012, we trained in-country technical teams from Orange, from the Dadaab-based NGO technical staff and from our local ICIP SetRight, all of whom will continue to make additional installations and support the network. We offered our custom practical curriculum in both network design and installation, based both in the classroom and in the field. The initial bandwidth contracted has been fully installed, and Orange is on track to add triple the amount available to keep pace with demand and to meet new service order expectations.

Immediate results

This connectivity is already enabling the humanitarian agencies to function better, to communicate among themselves and to support overall operations. As the new network architecture is tried and proven to be more reliable and cost effective, it will be extended to the general population via sustainable outreach community centers that support learning, resettlement and economic empowerment. The Dadaab Connect project is funded by Inveneo’s Broadband for Good Program, Cisco, Microsoft, NetHope, Craig Newmark, the Orr Family Foundation, UNHCR, and USAID’s Global Broadband Innovations Program.

For a full progress report from NetHope, please click here.