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Connecting the World 6 September 2019

Hurricane Dorian: We Are Not Dormant

Shernon Osepa
By Shernon OsepaManager, Regional Affairs for Latin America & The Caribbean Bureau

Once again, the world is witnessing the destructive power of a natural disaster. This time, the name is Dorian. What worries us is the fact that wind speeds reached the maximum intensity of five on the Saffir-Simpson scale, causing unprecedented damage to islands of the Bahamas. Of further concern is the fact that some Caribbean countries still have not fully recovered from 2017 storms, Irma and Maria.  According to forecasts more storms can be expected as we are in the middle of the hurricane season.

The Caribbean remains vulnerable to natural disasters and this has a huge impact on the social and economic development of the region. According to Professor Jamal Saghir, former World Bank executive, and other experts, 20 percent of the Caribbean GDP is spent on natural disaster recovery.  You must realize that we are talking about Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) that are already prone to all kinds of challenges due to their small economies.

Natural disasters are not going away and we can even expect them to have greater destructive power in the future. Although we cannot fight against nature, doing nothing is not an option.

At the Internet Society we work for an open, globally-connected, trustworthy, and secure Internet for Everyone. With respect to being “globally connected”, we are focusing on innovative and smart ways to get people connected to the Internet. Communication before, during, and after a natural disaster is important.  Our community networks’ strategy should also be seen in that light. However, we are not mopping with an open tap; we need to do more and start focusing on designing and building more resilient critical communication infrastructures.

In the coming hours and days, Caribbean stakeholders will be focusing on how to get critical communication infrastructure restored as quickly as possible. Some of them are the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA); the Disaster Risk Management committee (DRM) of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Operators (CANTO); the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU); CaribNOG; and some NGOs.

Our diverse community, integrated by Chapters and Partners with experience in natural disaster mitigation, will be a key element to keep working together in finding ways to support the region. At this stage, we are waiting on the “All Clear” from the Bahamian authorities so that structural help can be received on site.

I am calling on our partners and Chapter members with technical expertise in restoring critical Internet infrastructure and who are willing and able to assist, to please contact me. Let’s contribute to maintaining a connected Internet for everyone.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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