In recognition of the role that the mobile industry plays in humanitarian crises, in March 2015 the GSMA launched the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter. The Charter is formed by a set of principles which focus on enhancing coordination, scaling and standardising responses and on strengthening partnerships.
The ultimate aim of the Charter is to strengthen access to communication and information to reduce loss of life and to positively contribute to humanitarian assistance.
At the recent Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Telefónica officially became one of the latest signatories of the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter. We welcome them to the group. In this blog we take a look at some of Telefónica’s past experience in disasters and humanitarian crises.
Telefónica Earthquake response in Chile in 2010
In 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile severely affected several areas of the country. There were more than 500 victims and 2,000,000 people affected. Telefónica infrastructure was damaged during the earthquake and, immediately following the disaster, the high numbers of calls saturated the network and collapsed the service.
Telefónica Chile was able to resolve this situation because of its robust business continuity contingency plan, which includes periodic rehearsals in case of emergencies ahead of time, and an integrated management and control system of the fixed and mobile network. Emergency plans covered various network environments to restore and maintain the operation and prevent the collapse of the platforms and base stations. Local, mobile and long-distance national calls were enabled through the 188 number free of charge, external booths were set up to make free long-distance cellular and local calls, and billing of customer accounts was postponed and in some cases suspended for services such as SMS, paging and calls.
“Access to information is particularly important during disaster situations. Telefónica promotes collaboration with governments and humanitarian organizations in order to strengthen the response strategies. We provide the early warning channel to facilitate the response coordination for emergency services and logistics and support vital communication between people affected.” says Eduardo Puig Aznar, Director of Corporate Stakeholder Engagement & Corporate Reporting, Telefónica.
“We are capable of organizing a rapid deployment of telecommunications systems to help with efforts of preparation and response to natural disasters.”
El Niño Business Continuity Planning
In 2015, Telefónica Peru presented to the Ministry of Transport and Communications the Telefónica Business continuity plan, with a budget of 10 million soles (£2.07 million). The plan took into account all of the key areas that could be impacted by the climate change produced by El Niño in the country. The plan is based on the global Business Continuity plan of Telefónica and includes process improvements in the availability of services and critical infrastructures, and sets out actions to be undertaken in case of incidents, anticipating the needs of communications of Telefónica’s customers and business clients in case of emergency.
“Telecommunications are essential in cases of natural disasters. We are aware that our capacity for prevention and reaction is essential for those affected, and for emergency services.” says Eduardo Puig Aznar.
“The key to a quick and effective response by emergency teams in the case of catastrophes is the efficient management of networks and telecommunications services by infrastructure network operators. In addition to establishing Continuity Plans, necessary to ensure normal provision of customer services in all countries where we operate, we include concrete actions of humanitarian aid such as: internal emergency training, humanitarian aid provision and dissemination, and strong collaboration with NGOs.”
The above examples demonstrate strong alignment by Telefónica to the principles of the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter and we look forward to their continued engagement within the signatory group. Existing signatories will benefit from the expertise and experiences of Telefónica across its operating markets, and Telefónica will gain access to a growing community of best practice.
Note: The Humanitarian Connectivity Charter is supported by UN OCHA, the UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Signatories include Ooredoo Group, Axiata Group, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Roshan, Etisalat, Telefónica, Zain, Millicom and Ericsson. It was created following a series of industry workshops and collaboration facilitated by the GSMA Disaster Response programme, in association with UN agencies, mobile operators, vendors and NGOs.