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Better Satellite World Podcast: Providing Aid, Improving Lives and Revealing the Truth Through Satellite Connectivity

In this Better Satellite World podcast, SSPI’s Lou Zacharilla speaks with representatives of the three 2023 recipients of Better Satellite World Awards. Libby Barr, Chief Operating Officer of Avanti Communications, Fernando Carballal, Associate Director of Product Development and Operational Partnerships for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Stephen Wood, Senior Director of the Maxar News Bureau join Lou to discuss their projects, goals and making a better world for all.

Libby Barr is the Chief Operating Officer at Avanti Communications (“Avanti”) and a member of its Executive Committee. Joining in January 2019, Libby is responsible for the development and growth of the Carrier, Mobility and Enterprise customers along with overseeing the end-to-end customer experience across Avanti’s Sales and Marketing departments. Libby is passionate about connecting some of the hardest-to-reach communities in the world. Key milestones include the connectivity of over 1,000 villages in Africa, to which Avanti has made significant investments to provide satellite infrastructure and digital connectivity in rural and ultra-rural areas. Along with her team, Libby’s focus will be on connecting a further 10,000 villages and schools over the next five years. Prior to Avanti, Libby was at BT for nine years. As Managing Director of Customer Care, she was a key member of the BT Consumer Leadership Team who grew the company’s revenue by more than £1.2bn in five years. Libby was also responsible for the strategic vision, leadership and transformation of a 10,000 strong Customer Care organisation across more than 30 sites worldwide. Libby began her career at Vodafone. At the company for 22 years, she held positions in both the global and UK organisations, leading the Enterprise Sales and Service organisations. In addition, Libby was a Trustee of the Vodafone Foundation.

Avanti Communications’ rural solution is a groundbreaking satellite service designed to bridge the digital divide by connecting ultra-rural villages in Nigeria for the first time. This innovative solution has proven key to the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) National Broadband Plan of 2020, which sets out two national goals: to achieve 90% population coverage and a penetration rate of 70% by 2025. Avanti Rural solution uses advanced satellite technology to extend mobile network coverage to the hardest-to-reach areas of Nigeria, that would be impossible to reach using traditional terrestrial infrastructure. This off-grid service is a game-changer in the telecommunications industry, providing cellular services to the most remote communities, and in turn, promoting digital inclusion and socio-economic development. As of 2023, Avanti has deployed over 500 ultra-rural sites in 21 Nigerian states, providing 2G and 3G connectivity to 2.5 million Nigerians. All these areas previously had no connectivity, with residents forced to travel on foot or by local bus to the nearest towns with coverage just to use their mobile phones. Learn more about Avanti’s rural solution.

Fernando Carballal is Associate Director of Product Development and Operational Partnerships for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization that helps people affected by humanitarian crises – including the climate crisis—to survive, recover and rebuild their lives. He is also Co-Founder and Innovation Consultant of Impactspace, which works with businesses, NGOs, government and academia internationally to explore and commercialize new impactful ideas. Before joining IRC and co-founding Impactspace, Fernando served as Head of Design and User Engagement for Sen and as a Designer for a variety of companies, including Satellite Applications Catapult, Thingmaker and Cyclehoop Ltd. He is a graduate of London Metropolitan University with a Masters in Product Design and the University of East London with a Bachelors of Science in Architecture.

The Mapping Invisible Populations project is an innovative initiative by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), created in collaboration with Flowminder and Humanitarian Open Street Map. The project was developed in 2023 with the central aim of providing support services to hard-to-reach populations. This initiative primarily targets fragile and conflict-affected areas which may receive less medical and other humanitarian support. Using satellite imagery mapping techniques and GIS methodologies provided by its partners, the Mapping Invisible Populations project gathers satellite and spatial data and combines it with population estimates analyzed by its partners to determine the location of these underserved populations. Subsequently, these estimates are verified by community informants for further corroboration. The objective is to identify populations living in areas that are large enough to justify IRC investing resources, time, and risk to provide medical and humanitarian assistance. Learn more about the Mapping Invisible Populations project.

Stephen Wood is the Senior Director of the Maxar News Bureau. He has more than 30 years of experience analyzing satellite imagery and performing all-source analysis for government, commercial and media customers. Mr. Wood joined DigitalGlobe (which became Maxar Intelligence) in 2000, after 14 years in the U.S. government, where he held a range of senior imagery intelligence-associated positions. He was the co-founder of AllSource Analysis, an imagery analytic company based in Colorado. He has an in-depth record of creating geospatial and all-source material and has briefed audiences extensively throughout his career, including high-ranking government officials, CEOs and the media on geospatial information and high current interest issues. Stephen Wood will be joining SSPI for the February edition of the New York Space Business Roundtable, Ukraine & Satellites, on February 17. 

The Maxar News Bureau is a unique partnership program that collaborates with renowned media organizations worldwide, focusing on using technology for social good and global transparency. The program is operated by Maxar Intelligence, a leading provider of secure, precise geospatial intelligence. The Bureau leverages the business’ satellite imagery, analytics and expertise to complement quality journalism and provide irrefutable evidence in an era where credibility is critical. The Maxar News Bureau has provided high-resolution satellite imagery and analysis for notable reports like The New York Times’ 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning report on Russia’s use of shadow warfare and the 2019 Emmy-winning “One Building, One Bomb” story, which reconstructed a chemical attack in Syria. The Bureau’s satellite imagery allowed the Times reporters to enhance their storytelling and lend credibility to their reports. In the realm of current events, information is traditionally released by the media, governments or organizations directly involved in the event. The Maxar News Bureau serves as an auxiliary source, providing supporting evidence or context to unfolding situations. Learn more about the Maxar News Bureau.




This podcast is sponsored by

The 2023 Better Satellite World Awards Dinner was sponsored by

SSPI’s Better Satellite World campaign is made possible with the support of our corporate partners

 January 29, 2024