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They say that in 2010, Dr Paul Gardner-Stephen, a computer systems researcher at Flinders University in Australia, was driving to work in his car when he first heard radio reports of the devastation of the Haiti earthquake, more than 10,000 miles away.
Alongside tents and drinking water, RAF planes dropped more than 1,000 solar-powered lanterns attached to chargers for all types of mobile handsets to the stranded members of the Yazidi religious community.
With roads blocked, infrastructure reduced to rubble and mobile networks down, he realised something needed to be done, and quickly.
"You typically have about three days to restore the communications before the bad people realise the good people aren't in control any more," he says.
His solution was to develop the technology that allows mobile phones to communicate directly with each other even where there is no network coverage, or when mobile masts have been knocked out of action - a system known as "mesh networking".
His Serval Project work means users can send text messages, make calls and send files to other users nearby, creating a mobile network through a web of users.
Read the BBC News story at
The Serval Project
Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen