Internet connection for refugee camp proves a basic need

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Internet connection is probably the last thing well wishers would think of installing in a Refugee camp. well, it is 2016 and free Wi-Fi proves to be a noble donation than a winter coat.

Ilias Papadopoulos, a Greek electrical engineer, had the idea of free Wi-Fi when he first visited Idomeni refugee camp in Greece after he realised most of the refugees own smartphones without SIM cards in them.

In the months since, Idomeni’s population has ballooned from a few thousand to nearly 13,000 — nearly a third of the refugees currently stranded in Greece. The camp in Idomeni is built to hold somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people at any given time.

The Wi-Fi connection is crucial to the occupants who before did not have a reliable connection to communicate. They use the Wi-Fi to connect to their relatives because most families from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan on Facebook pages and other social media platforms.

The refugees have also been using the internet to alert each other on police presence, closed routes during boarder transits.

Papadopoulos put up eight access points throughout the camp with technology aligned to the different levels of smartphone technology. Some of those smartphones can only access single-band connections, whereas others can access dual-band.

Each  access point can hold 120 users at a time which means that the current system can handle 960 users at any given time. With nearly 15,000 people in Idomeni, the connection can slow to a trickle during the day, but at night, when many turn in to their tents to sleep, the access points are less clogged.

It operates on a domed-white disc that glows green if it’s a single-band access point or a blue if it’s dual-band.

The infrastructure built inside an old trailer with solar panel that powers the station during the day and recharges the two high-capacity batteries that run overnight.  A souped-up secondhand laptop serves as the control panel for the whole operation making it a self-sustaining hub.

It’s a boon for the people in Idomeni, some of whom have been there two weeks or more, waiting for any news about the border.

 

 

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Melissa Daniels
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