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BELLEVUE, Wash. -- When disaster strikes a country that has already been battered by poverty, humanitarian groups need to get on their feet quickly.

That's when NetHope steps in by working to restore the technology that allows those groups to communicate with the outside world.

When an earthquake rocked Haiti 19 months ago, about 22 groups that work with NetHope -- representing 3500 employees -- had lost their communication abilities.

All of them had IT staff that were traumatized, said Frank Schott, senior global program director for NetHope. Communication is really the first thing that needs to be established before any relief can happen.

Within eight days, NetHope set up a 30-mile-wide WiFi hotspot for those humanitarian organizations, including Federal Way-based WorldVision.

The ability to get good, reliable data quickly is probably the biggest need of the humanitarian sector, said Jeff Wright, WorldVision's operations director for humanitarian and emergency affairs. It's absolutely critical.

Following the earthquake, NetHope also set up an academy to train young Haitians so they could get good IT jobs.

These young Haitians have really amazed us with how hard they work, with their creativity, Schott said.

Several tech companies, including Microsoft, support NetHope through monetary donations, equipment and volunteers.

Just about every one of our major projects has Microsoft representation, Schott said. And the expertise they lend to the work we do is invaluable.

NetHope plans to run another academy in Haiti this fall. Academies in Africa and the Dominican Republic will begin next year.

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