Over the past decade, the number of people affected by humanitarian crises has almost doubled, as the result of conflicts or global challenges like climate change.
No one entity can tackle global challenges of this scale on its own. Nor can any country, international organization or company. But all can play a part. At Ericsson, we believe that when technology is simple to deploy and easy to adopt, it is more likely to scale and help address global challenges, whether social, economic or environmental. But we can only tap into this potential with help from our partners.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

We have been working with the 17 United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since their inception in 2015. They range from ending poverty to quality education to climate action, among others. The information and communications technology industry has the potential to work across all 17 goals, helping not only to achieve them but to accelerate achievement. But with the intersection of humanitarian crises and sustainable development, Goal 17, focused on partnerships is particularly relevant.
One of my favorite quotes from Jan Eliasson, the former Deputy Secretary General of the U.N., is “partnership is the new leadership.” And at Ericsson, we have been living this motto for nearly two decades.
Partnership for humanitarian response
In the year 2000, a group of Ericsson employees realized the potential of mobile communications to assist in the response to natural or humanitarian disasters. Since then, our Ericsson Response volunteers have played a leading role in the U.N. Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a global network of organizations that work together to provide shared communications services in emergencies, led by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The key role of Ericsson Response is to install and maintain temporary internet connectivity until local services have sufficiently recovered or until increased capacity is no longer needed.
Team members from Ericsson Response and World Food Programme assessing the damage of Hurricane Maria. (Photo: Courtesy of Ericsson)

One of the most recent Ericsson Response missions took place in the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The ETC was activated and Ericsson Response began helping restore communications to first responders in the first 48 hours. WFP led the mission and enabled all logistics. Few planes were allowed or able to take off and land in this region after the disaster struck. WFP was able to get the Ericsson Response crews to and from the island. This was important as we would rotate our teams after approximately six weeks to ensure volunteers were fresh and energized for the mission.
During the mission in Nepal after an earthquake struck in 2015 killing 8,000 people, Ericsson Response as part of the ETC was immediately deployed to assist in the relief efforts. Within 24 hours of their arrival, Ericsson Response volunteers had helped re-establish vital internet access for humanitarian responders. During the first month of the mission, Ericsson Response supported more than 1,000 users from more than 130 humanitarian organizations, aiding the millions of people affected by the disaster.
What makes Ericsson Response special is the multiple levels of collaboration. First, it’s an employee volunteer program that takes advantage of the vast and diverse expertise of our people around the world. Since its start, hundreds of employees from more than 30 countries have volunteered, been trained, and deployed all over the world to support more than 40 humanitarian relief efforts.
Second, our partnership with the WFP is a great example of how a public/private partnership works at a scale. The actual missions are just the tip of the iceberg of our collaboration; we work together in training and preparation, from fundraising to joint training to technical research.
Partnerships are key to our future
With the development of ubiquitous connectivity, our entire industry has a real opportunity to deliver on purpose-driven leadership and thinking. The telecom network plays a particularly vital role as an enabler for all other essential services, and as the foundation for internet access.
At Ericsson our strength has come from matching our technology solutions and expertise with the core competencies of our partners. We are going to keep building on this foundation, and together with partners, continue to contribute to meet global challenges. Learn more about our sustainability work here.
Heather Johnson is vice president, sustainability and corporate responsibility, at Ericsson. She will join Enrica Porcari, chief information officer of the World Food Programme, for a conversation on this topic onstage at Techonomy 2018 next week in Half Moon Bay, California.