Télécoms Sans Frontières or TSF is a telecommunications humanitarian aid organization that works in distasters areas to set up satellite-based telecoms centers that offer broadband Internet, phone and fax lines. The need for an organization of this sort was made evident to its founders after their visits to the former Yugoslavia and Kurdistan during the first Gulf War. They saw that large numbers of people were being displaced without any way to contact their families. With this in mind TSP was founded in July 1998, with the use of their first satellite phone, and worked almost exclusively in refugee camps providing the means for those effected to contact loved ones. After a number of years of working face to face with individuals to help them contact other individuals they opened up their first telecommunications center open to larger actors in humanitarian aid in 2001 in northern Afghanistan.
They operate out of three international bases in Thailand, Nicaragua, and France that monitor satallites 24/7 and can deploy teams to effected areas in a matter of hours. These teams set up telecommunication centers that provide phone lines and access to broadband internet. According to their website these telecomm centers allow people, “to send and receive information on logistics and urgent needs of the population in the early hours of a crisis” and “to strengthen coordination on the ground between local authorities, humanitarian agencies and organizations in the seats of the world.” (Translated by Google for easy reading). Their services also allow people to get personalized assistance and psychological support, facilitate family reunification and contact family abroad.
(Woman using a TSF phone at a telecommunication station.)
One of the characteristics of this program is to provide aid only when necessary and to to only stay until UN agencies or the local governments can set up more permeant lines of communication, which usually takes 45 days. Since their inception they have worked in over 60 countries, 600 NGOs and numerous UN agencies and governments.
TSF works on a different platform form that of Mission 4363 in that TSF provides both the service and the tools, such as laptops to access internet and phones to place calls, while Mission 4363 utilizes the technologies already present in a community. In providing the technologies those who use TSF as a way to communicate have to count on those they are trying to reach to have access to those same technologies. They also focus more on intracountry communication, unlike Mission 4363 that uses people from outside the effected areas to provide more information on locations and such that may not be available in the effected areas