Wi-Fi clouds in Afghanistan?

Building wireless connections could be one way to accelerate the use of the Internet by the Afghan government, according to an informal e-mail report by Linton Wells, the Defense Department's acting chief information officer.

We hope this can be accomplished without littering Afghanistan with Starbucks coffee shops.

You can do almost anything on the Internet

During his trip to Afghanistan, Wells said he used the Internet to "collaborate with folks in Indonesia and San Diego on tsunami relief via commercial software tools" rather than using military channels.

Wells said DOD officials are still learning how to use a variety of tools to communicate with nontraditional partners, including the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations, such as the Red Cross, and the security forces of other nations.

He said DOD officials set up an online Virtual Emergency Operations Center to support post-tsunami relief operations, adding that the center's library "alone is worth the price of admission."

This library runs the gamut from the Quran and the King James Bible to the Joint Doctrine for Civil-Military Operations and the U.S. Agency for International Development's Field Operations Guide for Disaster Assessment and Response.

Put a trip to Tunisia on your calendar for November

Wells seems to have a passion for information and communications technology to support humanitarian relief operations and what he has dubbed "social networks."

He plans to explore such technology on a global basis at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia Nov. 16-18.

Thailand tsunami Wi-Fi

Brian Steckler, an information science lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and J.P. Pierson, a senior network engineer at the school, went to Thailand shortly after the tsunami to set up the Coalition Operating Area Surveillance and Targeting System (COASTS), a wireless, long-haul network. They quickly converted COASTS to help support relief operations.

Steckler said he now wants to develop "fly-away kits" for such operations based on easy-to-use commercial products. The kits would consist of about two or three boxes weighing a few hundred pounds. Each would include a stand-alone power source (solar or battery), a satellite dish, a modem, wireless network gear, beyond-line-of-sight antennas, routers, switches or connectors, uninterruptible power supply, generators and software.

Equipment suppliers for the COASTS setup in Thailand included Rajant, which makes wireless network devices; Redline Communications, a Canadian manufacturer of long-haul wireless communications equipment; and Cisco Systems, which provided routers.

New Cisco government image therapist

Speaking of Cisco, company officials hired Janis Langley last month as their new government public relations person. Langley, who has a long career in the telecommunications industry, will work out of her home in Austin, Texas, with frequent trips to the Washington, D.C., area and Cisco headquarters in San Jose, Calif. If you want to get hold of her, send us an e-mail. n

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