Conservation International: Using Satellite As A Tool, An Enabler And A Lifeline

In today’s fast-pace business environment, most organizations cannot operate without a reliable communications platform. Such is the case for Conservation International (CI). Founded in 1987, CI is a U.S.-based, nonprofit international organization composed of roughly 1,000 scientists, economists, communicators, educators and other professionals. Their mission is to reconcile biodiversity and human welfare goals in 40 countries, many of which are located in developing regions. CI’s major business centers on compiling baseline data, analyzing it, predicting environmental threats and developing corrective tools. For this organization to succeed on a global scale with its conservation agenda, satellite technology has been incorporated into its network platform.

For example, satellite imagery is used for monitoring deforestation in rainforests. In addition, satellite also enables key communications within the organization. Robert Fine, director of information technology, international operations for CI, spoke with Satellite Business Solutions and relayed the critical role a satellite-enabled network provides to his team.

Robert Fine
Director of IT, International Operations,
Conservation International

PROBLEM:
The Need To Ensure Efficient Communications and Provide Seamless Transmission Channels In Developing Regions

At CI, most of the work happens in remote or developing areas, which causes issues in terms of communications. Many times, field workers find themselves with unreliable communication options. "Liberia is a good example," says Fine. "The country is coming out of a war and they are still in the process of rebuilding their infrastructure." In other places, he adds, there might be communications systems available but the performance is so poor that network managers have to bypass those infrastructures.

The organization needed a reliable solution. "We started building a new, very robust, global network for our offices five years ago, and we have been pushing the envelope in terms of bandwidth for IP telephony, videoconferencing," and other applications like e-mail, instant messaging, network application upgrades and database management.

SOLUTION:
Connect Offices And Field Workers With A Satellite Link

CI incorporated satellite into its network in 2001. Out of its 27 sites, the company currently has four sites running off satellite for corporate communications-two in Guyana, one in Liberia and one in Papua New Guinea. CI also has an additional test site in Washington, DC.

For communications and satellite imagery, nearly 200 out of the 1,000 employees now rely on satellite-based services.

Twenty satellite phones are used by CI workers in the field as a lifeline where there is poor telephone infrastructures. "In a lot of cases, [a satellite phone] is our only and best way of communicating," adds Fine.

Satellite also improved substantially the way the organization operates. Employees no longer struggle with doing research online, e-mailing or receiving attachments. They are able to keep in touch with field offices and headquarters cost-effectively through the satellite-enabled network.

CI may migrate up to five existing terrestrially-connected sites to satellite, and will also connect up to five new offices to the organization’s network via satellite in the near future. Likewise, plans include examining how to use satellite for more scientific endeavors in the field.

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