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Blog Posts by Mindel DeLaTorre

Hosting a New Generation of Leaders at the FCC

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief, International Bureau
July 18, 2012

On July 12, 2012, the FCC hosted a program for TechGirls, a U.S. Department of State initiative sponsoring an international exchange program designed to empower young girls to pursue careers in the science and technology sectors.

The FCC hosted an impressive group of 25 young women between the ages of 15-17 from eight Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries, including, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia and Yemen. All of the girls went through a rigorous application process and those who were selected are truly outstanding. At their young age, many have already taken robotics courses as well as computer classes.

While they were unified in their intelligence and capabilities, they were as unique as one would expect – some love sports, some love reading, writing and music, others love drama and art, and some even like fashion and shopping. Some were funny and some were earnest, but all were incredibly smart. Ideas just tumbled out of them.

Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel talked about their careers with the TechGirls – and were bombarded with questions about how to achieve similar success in their own lives. These young women were interested in subjects from across the science and information communications technology fields, from engineering to medicine, physics to app development. A few discussed establishing their own NGOs. They wanted to know how professional women balance work and family, how women can be successful in a male-dominated field, and how they can be sure that the choice they make is the right one. It was a lively conversation and those of us with long-time careers learned a lot from this younger generation!

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Haiti's Earthquake: One Year After

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
January 18, 2011

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]It’s one year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti and we at the FCC, like many other organizations that have worked to help with the recovery, look back and to the future to see what awaits the country.  International organizations, including the UN, agree that much remains to be done to help Haiti’s reconstruction.  Haiti is still hurting as a result of a natural disaster that, according to new estimates recently announced by the Haitian Prime Minister, killed more than 300,000 people and affected an estimated 3 million -- a third of Haiti’s population. 

Right after the earthquake, Haitians, many of whom struggled to obtain basic services even before the tragedy, became almost totally deprived of the ability to communicate with emergency relief services, relatives, friends and the rest of the world.  Restoring of telecommunications services, however, went relatively quickly and played a major role in rescue efforts after the earthquake.  Mobile phones proved very useful in helping find earthquake victims, and volunteers developed mobile apps to help navigate through the numerous dirt roads and alleyways in Port-au-Prince.  Telecommunications will also play a large role in Haiti’s ability to advance in the reconstruction of the country and as an aid in providing health-related and other basic services to the Haitian people.

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Emergencies Abroad: What Do You Dial?

by Mindel DeLaTorre
December 1, 2010

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If you're traveling in Europe and suddenly you need to make an emergency call - what do you do? Dial "112." Don't call 911 as you would in the United States; that number doesn't work in Europe. Dialing 112 from any country in the European Union (EU) will connect you to emergency services, such as police, fire, and ambulance services. (See the list of European Union member countries.) Dialing 112 could be a life-saver and is completely free. You can dial 112 from any mobile phone, landline, or payphone. In most EU countries, the operator will speak both the local language and English (you can find country specific details).

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Welcome to WISENET

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
October 5, 2010

(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=71]]As we open WISENET, I am pleased to welcome everyone to this experimental site designed to bring women in ICT together to share their professional experiences.  As I have described the site to women all over the world, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. When I wrote to Minister Jasna Matic from Serbia, she was delighted that we were starting WISENET as she sees it as a complement to her program to promote careers for young women in ICT, an international “Girls’s Day/Girls in ICT” program to give girls an opportunity to explore ICT professions. This was the first time I had heard of this program and it is exactly the kind of "networking" and "information sharing" that we hope WISENET will engender.  Clearly, given the response to the pre-launch of WISENET, there is a need for just such a site. This is an opportunity for all of us to make it as successful as we can, so please do join us and participate. And thanks so much to those of you who have already responded with your ideas for WISENET.  I'm at the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, and I'm looking forward to introducing WISENET to an even broader audience. I'll send an update from the Plenipot.

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WISENET coming soon! Participate in the Women in ICT's Shared Experience Network

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
September 21, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=71]]Very soon, the FCC’s International Bureau will launch a new section of FCC.gov called “Women in ICT’s Shared Excellence Network” (WISENET).  The site is an international online community of women in information, communications, and technology.  Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Baker will kick off the discussions.

WISENET will be a space for women in ICT from around the world to share views and professional information, and keep in touch with each others’ work and accomplishments. Through WISENET, not only will we be able to stay informed about each other’s professional lives, but we also will have access to resources and referrals we can all use as we face common challenges.  To encourage sharing, we envision a website which will host information that participants contribute.  This will include professional biographical information, as well as other ICT-related input. 

If you are interested in participating, please send to Irene.Wu@fcc.gov:

  1. Your photo, name, professional title, organization, city, and country, as you wish it to appear on the website.
  2. A short professional bio of less than 100 words.
  3. Links to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social networking sites.

Also, we encourage you to send in:

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Haitian Art and the Learning Power of Information and Communications Technologies

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
August 6, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=100,width=70]]Recently, I visited an art exhibit in Washington, D.C. featuring the works of Haitian children.  If you live nearby or are coming to the capital for a visit, I encourage you to visit the exhibit. It’s called the “Healing Power of Art: Works of Art by Haitian Children After the Earthquake.” (The physical exhibit is at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, but you can also view the pictures on-line.

The artwork is mostly colorful, though especially the early pieces have some dark hues, undoubtedly reflecting the feelings of loss, fright, and sadness that hundreds of thousands of young Haitian children have experienced. At the exhibit, I saw in the children’s pictures some of the same things I’d seen in Haiti in January – images of crooked buildings, collapsed houses, helicopters overhead, dangling wires, a U.S. Navy ship in the port -- and some signs of hope like yellow suns. 

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The earthquake took a heavy toll on schoolchildren and all elements of education in Haiti.  The exhibit noted that, on January 12, 4,000 Haitian children died while in the classroom, many others died elsewhere, and 500 teachers were killed. The earthquake destroyed 90 percent of the school infrastructure and now 1.2 million children are out of school.

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Six Months Later: Challenges Continue and Communications Services are Key to Haiti's Future

by Mindel DeLaTorre, Chief of the International Bureau
July 12, 2010

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:98:height=98,width=70]]Today, six months since the devastating January 12th earthquake in Haiti,   our hearts are with our neighbors in Haiti.  I am picturing many of the people I met in Haiti when I participated in the FCC’s communications assessment team there after the earthquake – from the government officials to the radio and TV broadcasters who were making the most of very little to the young boy delighted by a small ball.

The country has now moved from the initial recovery phase to reconstruction.  And yet, every day, our counterparts continue to be forced to work with limited resources and to strive against daunting challenges.

We at the FCC remain committed to helping Haiti improve its communications framework.  Communications services are key to Haiti's future.  As Haiti implements its reconstruction plans, including new "growth poles" of population centers, a diversity of competitive communications services will be critical for successful rebuilding of all sectors.  Communications services will fuel the economy and facilitate delivery of education, health care, and government services to new communities.  Whether through narrowband or broadband applications, communications and information technologies will drive the use of new media, mobile banking, and other applications that are important for both day-to-day life and long-term growth.

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Final Reminders: What should I do when I return home?

by Mindel DeLaTorre
June 25, 2010

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This week we have covered pre-departure steps, overseas calling alternatives, and VoIP services, all focused on avoiding excess charges. Today we will wrap up the "Wireless World Travel Week" with an overview of the international calling tips, as well as a few final reminders.

  1. Check with your provider before you travel to see if your phone will work abroad.
  2. If your phone will work, check with provider to see if you can buy a SIM card in the foreign country to avoid roaming charges.
  3. If your phone will not work abroad, choose an alternative calling method that is best for you – purchase or rental of a world phone for instance.
  4. Disable push notification and wireless network settings on your smartphone as much as possible to avoid unintentional data transfer charges.

If you are using a mobile phone abroad, you will need to be able to charge it. Make sure you have the proper power adapters and converters for the country you are visiting, and any other equipment specific to your phone.

While you should be aware of all charges before you travel abroad, it is important to look closely at your invoice/bill to make sure that charges are accurate. If there are any discrepancies, notify your provider immediately. Keep in mind that roaming charges apply as soon as you arrive in a foreign country, so have a plan of action for placing calls abroad before you travel.

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Can I make calls over the Internet from Wi-Fi hotspots?

by Mindel DeLaTorre
June 24, 2010

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[Addendum: The FCC does not endorse the VoIP services mentioned below or any distinct technology.]

We've gone over many different options for international calling which all revolved around use of wireless networks and landlines. However, there is another cheap and easy way to make international calls called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) through a Wi-Fi hotspot. This allows you to call someone using high-speed Internet service instead of a telephone service. Just make sure that your phone does not automatically connect to an international mobile network, which can be expensive to access.

Of course, you must have Internet access to use a VoIP service, as well as a computer with microphone or webcam, or a smartphone that has VoIP capabilities. Assuming you have access, you can use one of many popular VoIP services such as Skype, Fring, or Truphone. If you use a VoIP service to make a call to another person using VoIP, it will probably be absolutely free (not including any fees you may have to pay to access the Internet). If the person you are calling is not using VoIP on their computer, you can also call them directly on their phone. This is often cheaper than using a calling card or local SIM card.

The main advantage of using VoIP to make international calls is that it is very inexpensive (free in certain circumstances). The downside is that it requires Internet access, and a computer or mobile device that has the necessary VoIP application. Also, international equivalents of 911 and E911 may not be fully functional with VoIP calling. Make sure you are aware of these limitations before relying on VoIP as your primary calling method. Visit the following links to learn more about VoIP services and to look up calling rates to individual countries.

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Once I am overseas, what calling options can I choose from?

by Mindel DeLaTorre
June 23, 2010

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You have arrived overseas, and are ready to make a call. After verifying your carrier's policies and charges, you should have a plan for how you will communicate while overseas.

Some phones are capable of using a SIM card that can be purchased overseas (call your provider for details on your specific phone and whether it's compatible with the system in the country you're visiting). This means you will have a local phone number, and not the same phone number you use in the U.S., but you will not have roaming charges. International calls and text messages placed from your destination will be much cheaper, and incoming calls will most likely be free. Keep in mind that it may be more expensive for the calling party because they will be calling or sending text messages to an international number.

If you plan on using your phone heavily, an alternative might be to purchase an inexpensive phone as well as a SIM card with prepaid minutes in the country you are visiting, so you know exactly how much you will be spending. You can also purchase a calling card if you need to make a long distance call to the U.S., as this is often much less expensive than using a hotel room phone. While it is not a good idea to use hotel room phones for a direct long distance call the U.S., you should use them if you want to call between rooms in the hotel.

Use your international calling card from a phone booth and not your mobile phone, as regular per minute charges usually apply if you use your mobile phone. And if you have an option of contacting someone in the country you're visiting at either a wireline or mobile number, call the wireline.

Another popular option is using the internet to make phone calls, called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on how to use this inexpensive method!

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