P2P and Disaster Preparedness

John Robb at Global Guerrillas says:

“Our tightly interconnected global system is increasingly prone to large shocks from a variety of man-made and natural causes. These shocks can disrupt flows of energy, food, commerce, and communications to produce widespread wealth destruction (at best) and famine/death (at worst). The best way to mitigate these shocks is to build resiliency at the local level so that communities can enjoy the benefits of globalization without being damaged by its excesses.”

In a post titled RESILIENT COMMUNITY: Smart Local Networks he says that a local internet or community intranet could go a long way in creating more resilient communities. Since, he says, our normal internet connectivity is only from user to server and back, there is currently no such local loop that a community’s own network could use and his proposal is to negotiate, as a community, with telcos and cable providers to induce them to allow the community to create its own smart local network piggybacking on the ‘dumb’ lines of the provider. This could provide

  • A local emergency network that connects all homes and business in the area by accessing the local aggregation nodes of cable/telco operators (which is actually a relatively trivial/inexpensive network exercise). It should become the default network if access to the greater Internet fails.
  • High availability servers (computers that host Web sites) in the local loop. Servers that are on the community network and located within the communities environs.
  • Community coordination software to sit on these servers. Easy to use and edit social software: blogs, wikis, etc. If the market is large enough, there will be software packages (hopefully open source) that replicate the functionality of a fully functional emergency response system (i.e. locally cached Google maps, etc.).

What John is describing here is of course a P2P network for community preparedness. In earlier posts on this blog, I hypothesized that such a local P2P network could be formed using consumer-owned wireless connectivity. See Peernet: Constructing the open Mesh and Peernet: Infrastructure and software for a million networks.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what kind of lines this local network uses. What is important is that we think about constructing it and start putting the software together that will help communities communicate in hard times. We might even find some good uses for that network in times of peace and quiet. Once it exists, all kinds of uses will become apparent.

There are also some good comments to John Robb’s post, so please take a look there as well: RESILIENT COMMUNITY: Smart Local Networks

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