Features, defence

By Nicole Verkindt | May 24, 2018

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to Disaster Relief technology, the defence industry is really well positioned to deliver on those needs. Most basic military products, especially those having to do with the logistics of deploying abroad, are great technologies that can be deployed quickly and effectively into operation with disaster strikes. Most defence technologies, are in fact dual use.

In 2010, I was building components for large camouflage netting and shelter systems for the U.S. Department of Defense in ithe Domincian Republic. We also had an active partnership with a French company called Musthane, which made collapsible water bladders to contain clean water, primarily sold for global defense requirements. At 16:53 on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010, neighbouring Haiti expierenced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake with at least 52 aftershocks. Well over 100,000 people were killed and 3 million affected - mostly displaced from their homes without shelter or clean water.

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was already such a poor country dealing with government corruption, in particular around foreign aid. At the time, I had capacity at our factory in the Domincan Republic, a mere 5 hour drive across the border.

Meanwhile, my family owned business, headquartered in Guelph, ON, Canada, was manufacturing actual shelters in over 220,000 square feet of space. My inexperience, which can be my biggest asset, told me that it was a no-brainer to try to sell or partially donate shelters to help this natural disaster. What happened next still bothers me. Over the course of the next 6 months to a year, while millions of people struggled with no roof over their heads or clean water, a three ring circus with loose elephants and falling gymnasts ensued between NGO procurement agencies, the Haitian Government, and the long list of foreign governments looking to provide funding to help the disaster.

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Over $500M USD was raised to help the disaster in Haiti, but working on the ground with NGOs made it seem like there was a real disconnect between the funds raised and relief showing up on the ground to help. Lots of small factors contributed to this - corruption throughout the chain, major logistical issues, extreme on the ground confusion and of course politics between various Governments, levels of Governments and NGOs all interfered in causing delays and mistakes in the support efforts.

One thought I have had since that experience, is that Government (or even the average person wanting to donate) could help a natural disaster by buying Canadian products/technologies and donating them directly to the disaster relief situations. We have a strong, vibrant defence industry in Canada, and by extension, there are significant dual use technologies that apply to disaster relief support. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to Disaster Relief technology, the defence industry is really well positioned to deliver on those needs. 

Read the rest of the article and find out which Canadian tech business are at the forefront of disaster relief >> 

Nicole Verkindt

Nicole is the founder and CEO of OMX, a Dragon on CBC's Next Gen Den, and a thought leader in the procurement industry.

Nicole is a political appointee to the Board of the Canadian Crown Corporation, a board member of the Peter Munk School of Global Affairs, and the official technology columnist for Vanguard magazine with a readership of over one million. In 2017, Nicole was named StartUp Canada's "Woman Entrepreneur of the Year."

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