Vanuatu needs help after being devastated by Cyclone Pam to recover, including food, medicine, clothing, emergency shelters and more.

Technology is also needed because it can be a lifesaver, and Red Cross declared it a necessity in disasters two years ago.

Volunteers have set up a Ushahidi website to gather and coordinate offers of telecoms equipment for Vanuatu and a bunch of people have already put their hands up to supply generators, wireless gear and their own expertise to set it up which is great to see.

Satellite phones and terminals are urgently needed to establish communications with the remote islands, the volunteers said.


The Ushahidi for Vanuatu can be found at and

If you're wondering about Ushahidi itself, it's a free and open source platform that started in Africa during the 2007 Kenyan presidential election crisis - the name means testimony or witness in Swahili - as a crowdsourcing tool to map reports of violence.

It has been used in many crises in Africa and after the Haitian, Chilean and Christchurch earthquakes as well as other disasters as a large-scale information sharing, reporting and resource and assistance coordination tool, and won awards for its efficiency.

DIY private 'cloud' storage with BitTorrent Sync

Like the idea of having your files accessible everywhere, but aren't too keen on putting your data in other people's computers where you have no idea who or what will access it?

In that case, you might want to take a look at BitTorrent Sync. BT Sync which is now out of beta and production ready is as the name implies a peer-to-peer file sharing and synchronisation app.

Because BT Sync is P2P, it doesn't use any cloud storage servers. Instead, files are synchronised between the devices you decide to share them with, encrypted with automatically or user-generated AES-128 keys.

The general idea here is that you fully control the access to files to be shared and synced and can revoke and change permissions whenever needed. Unlike cloud storage, there is also no limit on how much you can sync, beyond your ISP account's data cap of course.

I tried out BT Sync and found it relatively straightforward to use with an iMac desktop, Windows laptop, as well as an Android phone and an iPhone. BT Sync runs on a huge amount of operating systems, mobile devices and networked storage boxes.


Sharing is done with encoded links that expire by three days, or by scanning QR codes on mobiles. There's plenty of flexibility as to what's synced, when, how and by whom, which takes a while to figure out but isn't too hard.

Kevin Fu from BitTorrent said there had been plenty of interest in Sync, with over ten million downloads of the software while it was in beta, with over 80 petabytes of data being synced by users.

I asked Kevin if there would be any issues since BT Sync operates with the same BitTorrent protocol that is used for illicit file sharing and which is blocked or slowed down by some internet providers.

There were some problems with Sync not working, Kevin said, as it used the web site address. This has now been changed with resources hosted on the domain, resolving the problems with Sync not working.

Overall, BT Sync is a nice, easy to use solution that makes your digital life simpler and safer. It provides really good transfer speeds and which means you no longer have to upload data to the cloud first and then grab it from there.

You can use it to replicate data stored on separate devices easily, keeping it safe in case something happens. Like, losing your mobile, getting your laptop nicked, and so forth.

The main bugbear is that in order to get features like unlimited amount of folders to sync, on-demand access from desktop, and use BT Sync for business purposes you have to stump up US$40 (NZ$54.25 currently) a year for the Pro version.

That's not too bad compared to cloud storage however, and you can try out the Pro features for 30 days for free - you don't lose access to data if you drop down to the free version of BT Sync or even if you uninstall the program completely.