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Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST)

The Fast Information Technology and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST), is a group of technical specialists within the IT (information technology) division of  WFP. FITTEST provides IT, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure to support humanitarian aid operations anywhere in the world.

Overview

Humanitarian emergencies demand rapid interventions that are efficient, coordinated and effective. FITTEST responds to emergency requests and ensures staff are on the ground and ready to operate within 48 hours.

FITTEST is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The geographical location of this city facilitates the team’s deployment to emergencies around the world.

FITTEST is a unique cell within the United Nations system as it operates on a cost-recovery basis. Receiving no direct contribution from Governments or other humanitarian donors, FITTEST ensures its sustainability by operating in a similar way as a commercial company. The team operates on a limited margin (7.5%) which it uses to cover costs and initial training for its members. Such a method of operating ensures the application of very high service standards as FITTEST only survives if its ‘clients’ continue to utilise its services.

History

FITTEST developed from the African Great Lakes humanitarian emergency in 1995, when WFP needed to reach approximately 3.3 million people displaced across Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire (today Democratic Republic of Congo), Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania . The challenge for WFP at the time was to coordinate food distribution for millions of people, across these six countries, when the only forms of communication available in the area were telephone and fax.

In 1998, FITTEST became an official tool for WFP to respond to emergencies.

With the established of the United Nations Cluster by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, FITTEST also became a critical tool for WFP to fulfil its mandate to provide IT services to the entire humanitarian community in emergencies. (link to Cluster information)

Since its creation in 1998, FITTEST has completed missions in 130 countries including: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Indonesia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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The Team

FITTEST consists of Information Technology, electrical and radio experts from around the world who are specially trained to work and operate in often demanding and hostile conditions.

Some of the harshest and most difficult situations where FITTEST intervened include:

While FITTEST is primarily an emergency response team, it is regularly involved in capacity-building activities (like IT Emergency Training), research and development projects (like the shift to the new radio technology for humanitarian operations) and corporate projects.

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Haiti Earthquake 2010

FITTEST was deployed to respond to the 2010 Haiti Earthquake within 48 hours of the incident . A team of experts flew to the country’s capital, Port au Prince with two flyaway kits. Each flyaway kit contained equipment necessary to establish basic voice and data communications until larger equipment could be sent to the devastated country.

Working with members of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) including Télécoms sans frontiers, Irish Aid and Ericsson Response, FITTEST is helping to re-establish connectivity in Haiti.

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Services

FITTEST delivers comprehensive services in the fields of Telecommunications (radio, telephone, and satellite), IT (hardware, software, computer networks, Lotus Notes, WINGS, Internet and E-mail) and Electricity (including wiring, power rectification equipment, solar power and generators). Services are customised to provide the most effective and efficient solution to the emergency operation.

Common services provided by FITTEST include:

Project Management

FITTEST can provide rapid IT support to any large or complex humanitarian operation. Options range from specific services to supplement the work of an existing project, to turn-key solutions including: 

  • Assessment of IT requirements
  • Deployment of equipment and personnel
  • Implementation of solutions
  • Technical support
  • Full documentation
  • Budget control

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Consultancy Services

FITTEST offers a range of consultancy services which help to identify areas for strengthening IT systems in the field and establishing project plans. Consultancy services include:

  • Assessment of security telecommunications needs 
  • Preparation of recommendations and proposals
  • Preparation of budget
  • Installations of telecommunications and IT infrastructure
  • Installation of electrical power networks
  • Set up of satellite and radio networks
  • Liaison with government authorities for frequency licensing and equipment

FITTEST is also available to explore and document how new and alternative solutions might be adapted for the use of humanitarian actors, in line with the evolution of their existing ICT systems.

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Training

By conducting training sessions for staff, FITTEST works to enhance rapid response capacity as well as facilitate the professionalization of global ICT standards within the humanitarian community.

FITTEST technicians also provide on-site training to local IT  staff while on each mission to ensure the sustainability of interventions and maximise staff capacity in the field.

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Equipment

FITTEST stores an extensive range of IT, telecommunications and electrical equipment essential for the provision of comprehensive IT solutions. Supplying items directly from this stock eliminates potential waiting time from normal procurement processes or suppliers and expedites the delivery of equipment to emergency operations with urgent requirements.

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