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Kyla Reid | GSMA | Tue, 15 Dec 2015 16:31:58 +0000

Just over a week before the first 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal on April 25th, our GSMA Disaster Response team travelled to Kathmandu to meet with the mobile industry and humanitarian partners to discuss the earthquake risk and develop partnerships and response plans.

Despite everyone being aware of the acute risk facing Nepal, we had no idea that our workshop on preparedness would be in such close proximity to the actual event. We had brought together mobile operators and other industry players from other countries experienced in earthquake response, such as Turkey, the Philippines and China.

We had representation from earthquake experts, UN agencies and civil society organisations. A session was held with the regulatory body to discuss some of the enabling levers that could support network restoration and continuity in emergencies. All of these stakeholders had a will to work together in preparedness, to share their experiences and to develop comprehensive coordination plans – they just hadn’t realised how soon they would need to act on them.

When the earthquake struck, our MNO colleagues, humanitarian partners from UN OCHA and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster and the regulatory body, Nepal Telecom Authority worked tirelessly in devastating circumstances to bring network services back up where they were damaged and maintain connectivity despite the challenges.

At the GSMA, we had calls of support from our mobile operator members around the world, asking where and how their expertise could be applied to aid the response efforts. We had signatories of our Humanitarian Connectivity Charter act on their commitments, supporting calling and connectivity for those impacted.
In Nepal, the mobile network infrastructure faced surprisingly minimal damage from the earthquake itself. Rather, a combination of interrupted power supply, logistics and access, human capacity limitations and process challenges contributed to failures across the chain where they occurred. Despite the diversity of obstacles and dependencies, mobile operators demonstrated an impressive capacity to adapt, innovate and create solutions to ensure that their customers and those supporting the humanitarian response were able to communicate.

New ways of using mobile network data to inform humanitarian response were launched in partnership between Ncell and Flowminder, and we witnessed strong partnership between the mobile community and the UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster and the Communicating with Communities (CWC) group in-country.

A little over a month after the first earthquake struck, I travelled back to Kathmandu to investigate how they coped, what they had learned, and what lessons might be applied by other mobile operators and their partners globally. This report aims to capture some of the key considerations, successes and challenges that were identified in the mobile response to the earthquake in Nepal.

We know that preparedness is key to building resilience and enabling a more effective response- learning from others within the mobile eco-system is critical to supporting our collective knowledge and ability to improve, and we are grateful to our colleagues in Nepal for sharing their insights and for the dedication and innovation they demonstrated to restore mobile communications in crisis.

Read the full report here.