In 2011, a devastating drought and famine in the Horn of Africa and armed conflict in East Africa caused a dramatic rise of new refugees flowing into the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. With over 500,000 individuals seeking refuge in a camp originally designed to hold only 90,000 people, U.N. agencies and humanitarian organizations had to drastically increase their operations. As such, Dadaab's internet service capacity was no longer sufficient for the growing population, and the need for improved internet connectivity was significant. Utilizing funding from Cisco, USAID, Microsoft and others, NetHope and networking partners Cisco Systems and Inveneo developed DadaabNet, an innovative approach that brought affordable and reliable internet connectivity to Dadaab, including the construction of an infrastructure network throughout the refugee camp.
DadaabNet has become the established tool for NGO collaboration among the 23 agencies in Dadaab refugee camp, and has provided refugees with access to one another and to the outside world. With a reliable internet connection, people living and working inside the Dadaab camp are now able to learn basic ICT skills, utilize email and social media accounts to connect with friends and loved ones, access online education, and get news updates from their home countries. In Dadaab, internet access represents hope—a window to the external world for thousands.
The NetHope-led collaboration between government and non-government agencies, leading tech companies, and the local community illustrates that cross-sector partnerships can result in sustainable new businesses models. The project has the necessary elements to show how to bring high-speed broadband connectivity and value-added services to scale in resource-strapped, underserved rural communities. DadaabNet‘s green energy ecosystem approach is ideal in areas where both sun and wind are viable power sources and where both humanitarian organizations as well as the local population are in great need of better-quality, cost-effective communication solutions.