Geeks Without Frontiers

Geeks Without Frontiers (Geeks) is a platform for global impact. A technology neutral nonprofit, Geeks’ mission is to bring the benefits of broadband connectivity – health, education, poverty reduction, gender equality and the other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) – to the estimated 3.5 billion people who remain unconnected.

Sponsored by government and private-sector stakeholders, Geeks has developed a commercially sustainable, satellite-based connectivity model, designed to help address forced labor and human trafficking in the commercial fishing industry. Whilst initially focused on Southeast Asia (the largest regional exporter for the global fishing industry), the Geeks model is a scalable template applicable to commercial fishing supply chains globally.

In addition to addressing Human Rights concerns via vessel geo-positioning and providing connectivity to the crew, the model has commercial benefits for vessel owners including the ability to transmit catch reports, monitor weather, conduct safe navigation and send distress signals. The same model can also be used to better address Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing, overfishing and seafood fraud. The Geeks model supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), particularly in the areas of innovation, industry, infrastructure, life below water, peace, justice, strong institutions, and partnerships.

A critical element of the model is Geeks’ regulatory and policy guidance for national administrations to enable more effective delivery of satellite-based solutions, together with complementary systems for hybrid connectivity in low-ARPU maritime and other remote environments. The policy principles advanced by Geeks Without Frontiers for the initiative include strategic liberalization -- to harness competitive dynamics for accelerated access to connectivity even onboard the commercial fleets of developing countries -- and regulatory reforms such as streamlined licensing and spectrum allocations that support satellite communications both onshore and offshore.

Another important dimension of Geeks Without Frontiers’ work has been extensive research and analysis conducted to identify "best of breed" technologies and innovative business-cases -- business cases that will close -- for delivery of low-cost connectivity in the world's commercial fishing fleets, where most of the vessels still do not have access to suitable communications and where a lack of transparency has emboldened criminal elements who engage in the practices of forced labor and illegal fishing.

Satellite is a central feature of the technology models and business-case portfolio prepared by Geeks to address these challenges and, having drawn from the experience of leading operators, terminal and component manufacturers and value-added resellers, the organization has brought industry together with government and humanitarian stakeholders to create a coalition of the willing, to incorporate multiple perspectives and interests, to integrate those considerations into financially, socially and environmentally sustainable models, and to accelerate implementation of connectivity for human rights and sustainable oceans. In particular, the initiative has targeted small fishing vessels (<30 tons) which comprise most of the world’s commercial fleets and where the need for communications is most acute for millions of people.

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