E-Resilience best-practices for the UN-ESCAP Asia Pacific Information Superhighway

Posted by on September 4, 2019  /  0 Comments

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Figure 1: Resilience and State: The metaphor of a ball in a basin (Picture credit: Yooinn Hong).

E-Resilience is a system property but poorly understood in Asia and the Pacific because it

  • is understood almost exclusively in terms of continuity and recovery; the “bounce forward” adaptive role of E-Resilience remains uninvestigated
  • doesn’t Included the fundamental enablers of E-Resilience, which are robustness, self-organization, and learning
  • hasn’t fully employed diagnose and remediation programs to bounce forward; thus, ensuring improving telecom survivability/availability, rapid restoration of access to telecoms, real-time data services, dedicated public security networks, and proven business continuity and disaster recovery plans and procedures.

VIEW SLIDES – “e-Resilience in support of emergency communication: best-practices.”

These facts are worth considering for steering the AP-IS E-Resilience initiatives. As shown in Figure 1, resilience should elevate each additional state above the previous (initial) state. Nevertheless, I’m very excited to see UN-ESCAP AP-IS initiative taking two and half of the recommendations presented in the previous year; i.e. the Second (2nd) Asia Pacific Information Superhighway Steering Committee meeting. The recommendations were:

  1. offer a set of tools and methodologies for organizations and communities to identify vulnerabilities in communications and implement mitigation strategies for achieving E-Resilience
  2. best-practices for developing community centered communications networks with options for reliable and proven back-haul and interconnection
  3. guidelines for building Business Continuity – Disaster Recovery Plans that comply with emergency communications requirements; and rapid restoration of access to telecommunication programs

Proven tools and methods for achieving E-Resilience

Figure 2: Social and technology evaluation layers and the inputs, processing, and outputs functional components, including their interoperability

A starting point for implementing the first (1) recommendation of introducing tools and methods involved  evaluating the ESCAP E-Resilience Toolkit. While this toolkit addresses ICT tools as enablers for social resilience (i.e. ICT4D definition of E-Resilience), they were unsuitable for achieving the AP-IS defined E-Resilience objectives: (i) resilient ICT networks (ii) supporting disaster management systems, and (iii) ensuring last-mile disaster communication. In its absence and given the growing need, we introduced the BCP-readiness and RASTER method to the Pacific Islanders. The outcomes of the workshop are presented in the ESCAP sub-regional report (session 5 & 6) on implementing AP-IS in the Pacific Islands.

RASTER and BCP-readiness are two simple and easy to apply tools that institutions can use in periodically diagnosing their vulnerabilities and then strategically treating them to build back better. Analyzing every functional component of the inputs, processing, and outputs at each organizational, application, and communications layers, shown in Figure 2, can be laborious. The RASTER and BCP-readiness offer — “the 20/80 rule” — a diagnosis and remedying approach that can be exercised in E-Resilience by the respective member state institutions. It is our desire to develop this method into one that can be easily adopted and applied by the member states in achieving their E-Resilience objectives.

Can community-networks contribute to E-Resilience?

The third (3rd) session of the AP-IS steering committee meeting hosted an entire day on community networks. It was to realize the regulatory, internetworking and socioeconomic challenges — precisely what we asked in the previous year (read section 2a). The bottleneck, with rolling out community-networks, lies with interconnecting with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and prevailing regulatory barriers (read section 2b). The emerging TV White Space innovations are by-passing these anti-competitive and regulatory bounded frictions. The technology is gaining momentum with middle-mile solutions to offer farther than 802.11 range meshed network connectivity.

The question posed to the researchers and practitioners was “in the wake of shocks how adaptive are community networks?”. Thus, are community-networks able to self-organize in becoming robust to shocks through internal learning processes? The answers given were mainly on demand side utility factors and supply side sustainable business models but none clearly had an E-Resilience tone. Power remains the largest black swan in emergency communication. Shocks force imbalances in their business continuity. AP-IS might consider inviting clean and renewable energy best-practices to share knowledge that is beneficial to E-Resilience initiatives.

Community-networks aim to “connect the unconnected” to fit well within the AP-IS master plan of broadband for all. Complementary, we have been advocating community-networks as means for “reconnecting the dis-connected“; especially offering channels for the public to “cry for help” in a crisis. Public are highly marginalized, when it comes to choices for telecommunications (only 3GPP and 802.11 services), relative to humanitarian agencies and government organizations who have access to a wide range of technology (Satellite, HAPs, HF Radio, so on). High Altitude Platforms (HAPs) and Grab-n-Go miniaturized turnkey solutions were presented, once again, by several commercial entities. This addresses half of the third (3rd) recommendation from previous year — namely, rapid restoration of access to telecommunications programs; when commercial telecommunications fail.

Harmonize across all critical infrastructure

To achieve the remaining half of the third (3rd) recommendation members states will need best-practice and guidelines in delivering comprehensive Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC&DR) plans and procedures. Our methods require that resilient ICTs are propped by a foundation of robust infrastructure that telecommunication depend on, such as the energy sector with power being the biggest black swan. To build and rebuild communications infrastructure and operationalize and re-operationalize the services, we need road, rails, shipping, and air support to transport people and equipment. Therefore, a couple of suggestions are the the AP-IS involve relevant UN agencies and International Stakeholders to realize the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of clean and green energy transformation and sustainable transportation systems, in support of E-Resilience.

Given that E-Resilience cuts across Smart Cities and Smart Communities initiatives it is important that, at least, the robustness of the two sectors and their critical infrastructures, in energy and transportation, are studies. The Asia Infrastructure Invest Bank (AIIB) has a strong opinion that infrastructure investments in communications, especially with changing technology 5G and IOT, must also consider dependent infrastructure such as roads, rails, bridges, and energy to proportionately grow together. These are necessary elements to consider in the BC&DR guidelines and practices; also recommended previously at the 2nd AP-IS steering committee meeting. Naturally it would make sense to pitch Resilience Development Goals as the successor to the 2015-2030 SDGs. Therefore, we might begin to consider such a holistic approach of harmonizing resilience across all sectors and dependent critical infrastructure.

Figure 3: E-Resilience, session 5 panelists, 3rd Steering Committee Meeting, Asia Pacific Information Superhighway

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