Corporate Social Responsibility

Case Study: DadaabNet, Kenya

A low-cost, high-speed network brings hope to refugees

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When famine, drought, and war drove a wave of people to the oldest refugee camp in Kenya, humanitarian organizations were overwhelmed. They turned to a global partnership led by USAID with Cisco support to create DadaabNet, a shared communication network that improved collaboration and brought affordable connectivity to a remote corner of the world.

The Issue: Connect the unconnected with affordable technology

More than a half-million people live in the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. In 2011, the worst drought and famine in more than 60 years struck East Africa and the population of Dadaab soared from 300,000 to 500,000. Humanitarian agencies struggled to deliver life-saving services on a massive scale to the remote region. To coordinate relief efforts, they needed to communicate with each other and with relief providers around the world.

  • Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies maintained separate satellite-based communications systems at a high cost with unreliable access.  
  • 10,000 people living in Dadaab are 3rd generation refugees, born to parents who were born in the 20-year-old refugee camp.
  • Lack of educational opportunities, healthcare information, and job prospects reduce the possibility of residents ever leaving Dadaab.

The Solution: Innovative network design lowers costs, improves connections

A global public-private partnership led by USAID's Global Broadband and Innovations Alliance (GBI) with implementation by Cisco, NetHope, Inveneo, and 4 Kenyan Internet service providers established a high-speed network to dramatically lower costs, extend reach, and improve reliability. DadaabNet first connected agencies for Internet access, video conferencing, and VoIP telephony. Then the system was extended to community centers, bringing unprecedented access to the people living in Dadaab.

  • 5 financial sponsors, 22 NGOs and UN agencies, and 7 implementing organizations collaborated to develop an innovative and replicable model.
  • 17 humanitarian organizations use DadaabNet to collaborate, communicate, improve operations, and save lives.
  • 5 community centers inside the camp extend educational and vocational training opportunities for refugee youth.
  • Online high school and college diploma programs provide access to education in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council Youth Education Pack.
  • Aggregate pricing and innovative design reduced bandwidth cost from $6000 to $190 per meg and quadrupled capacity in 4 months.
  • Cisco Tac Ops trained local engineering teams to maintain DadaabNet.

Impact Multiplied

In Dadaab, Cisco technologies and expertise connect the unconnected —transforming thousands of lives by providing refugees with access to the Internet. The global partnership, innovative designs, and success of DadaabNet provide a sustainable, scalable model to help improve health, economic opportunity, education, and livelihood for displaced people.

  • Transferring business operations from satellite to land-based communications saved hundreds of thousands of dollars—resources used to increase services and save lives.
  • Agencies experienced a 20 times reduction in recurring connectivity costs with greater reliability, redundancy, and resiliency.
  • The local DadaabNet team has installed implementations at 17 agency locations and provides maintenance and troubleshooting for the system.
  • Agencies use the additional bandwidth to communicate images and videos to raise awareness about conditions and increase donations.
  • Orange, a local service provider, plans to repeat the DadaabNET architecture in other locations.

“I am a single mother. After my separation from my husband, I was required to live at my mother’s house and provide for my child. With the use of the Internet, I hope that my son will be able to learn skills and knowledge to be successful.” Sayana Mohamed Hassan, Dadaab resident


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