September 9, 2005

Reconnecting to the Network After Katrina

In a previous post, we noted the numerous ways that the internet was being used to provide information and assistance to those affected by Hurricane Katrina. But what about those who need help and can’t yet access these resources? In a natural disaster where most lines of communication have been severed, including telephone, cellular phone, cable and fiber optic, how do 100,000’s of displaced people get access to the internet?

Thankfully, community technology organizations like Technology For All, CTCnet, OCCN and the Wireless Community Network Project are rapidly deploying solutions for getting affected individuals and communities back online.

Below are a few examples of the projects these groups are working on:

Technology for All in Houston recently established a Community Technology Center in Houston’s Astrodome, home to some 11,000 Katrina refugees. The center, with more than 90 computers, is being used to reconnect families through online clearinghouses of information, and to connect the displaced with other relief services. Will Reed, head of the project, has been blogging about the set-up at http://texasctcs.blogspot.com/.

The Wireless Community Network Project, an initiative of the University of Illinois’ Community Networking Project, is trying to set up wireless networks in local shelters, coupling network connectivity with computer access. Currently in Rayville, LA, organizer Paul Smith, the Technology Director of the WCN is blogging about his planning and experiences at http://wcn.cnt.org/news/.