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Resilient technologies from NGI Zero

One of the three pillars of the NGI initiative is resilience. We have come to depend on the internet for many things, and many societal pathways we used to have are now replaced by digital equivalents. This makes it extremely awkward when regular internet access is suddenly no longer available or becomes unreliable, due a natural disaster, warfare or some other reason. However, society should not come to a halt at that point: in such cases, perhaps more than in normal circumstances, people need to communicate and collaborate. Internet via satellite uplink isn't capable of delivering on that, at least not just yet. Developing resilient and disruption tolerant technologies is therefore one of the strategic goals for the programmes within NGI.

(Note that internet technologies themselves in principle continue to work even when there is a netsplit. Of course, you can't use remote cloud services from abroad if there is no link to them - which means that in order to stay up and running in case of whatever emergency you should not depend on those). There are many projects within NGI that you can install and run locally, to replace these services.

Offline messaging

To start with the worst possible use case when there is no network at all.

In that case offline capable messengers like Manyverse and Briar can offer relief. With both apps, you can send messages without any server. They work over a local wifi link and bluetooth. Both of them are not running in the cloud owned by a company, instead, messages you want to share live entirely in your phone and those of the people you communicate with. This way, even when you're offline, you can scroll, read anything, and even write posts and like content! If network connectivity is temporarily restored from you or someone in your network, you can sync up via the internet.

If you are using the Android OS, we recommend you install the open source F-Droid app store on your phone. This contains free and open source software, and may be available in cases where you cannot get access to vendor-specific stores like Google Play (work is under way to create icustom and portable app stores - stay tuned). One great feature of F-Droid is the ability to exchange apps you don't have installed with people that do (read the tutorial).

Ad hoc service provisioning

You can set up a 'neighborhood internet' with Internet Cube or existing equipment - an old laptop or even a small single board computer like a Raspberry Pi. Thanks to Yunohost you can turn this into a private hotspot which has file sharing, private mail, collaborative editing and quite a lot of other services.

Especially devices like the Internet Cube (which is actually capable of running on a battery) are great, because you can take them along with you anywhere you need to.

If you have bigger ambitions, you create a larger wifi mesh with software like Meshdesk/Radiusdesk. If you have access to (second hand) telco equipment, you can use Open Source Mobile Communications (or OsmoCom) to create whole mobile networks. Unfortunately, the LibreCellular project is not yet operational, but this will take portable mobile networks to a whole new level.

Fixing broken or missing network links

Initiatives like NOG Alliance and Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) are capable of providing emergency-response technologies, but in some cases it makes sense to complement wired technologies with wireless ones. One such example funded by NGI is KORUZA, an innovative open-source open-hardware wireless communication system, employing a new low-cost approach to designing free-space optical network systems. These portable little devices can be used to create an instant optical link between points when fibers or wires are cut.

There are many more open source technologies from the NGI portfolio that you may find useful. You could run PeerTube to share video's, when there is no access to other video sharing platforms, or use a local install of Pixelfed to share photo's. For navigating, you can find your way around with Peermaps, a p2p, offline-friendly way to distribute, view, and embed map data. Instead of fetching data from a centralized tile provider, you fetch data from other peers in the network.

Have a look at the portfolio from NLnet and from across the NGI initiative for more inspiration. Want to help? Make sure a project is translated, help write documentation or just simply point other to these resources. To those in distress: we wish you the very best, let us know if there is something we can do to help. For everyone else: note that the right time to work on achieving resilience at your end probably isn't waiting for the next large scale disruption, it is today — these things are never planned or announced, but they can be anticipated.