When Voxbone CEO Rodrigue Ullens saw that the ITU had assigned the UN a country code, he thought “They could use our help.” Inbound international calling, after all, is Voxbone’s core business. Tomorrow, Voxbone will announce an agreement with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to implement country code +888 on behalf of UN agencies engaged in rendering assistance to nations or regions affected by natural disasters, such as the Southeast Asian tsunami, or Haiti’s earthquake.
Rod Ullens has long advocated “country codes” without borders. With the UN, he has found the perfect application for that vision.
As Ullens explained to me, +888 is a real country code assigned by the ITU to the UN. In cases of humanitarian need, where telephone systems may be inoperable because of natural disaster, the first teams on the ground would deploy a local GSM antenna, connected via satellite to the rest of the world. Then Voxbone would simply forward calls to the +888 country code via satellite to the local GSM station on the ground. The impact is that UN inter-agency, intra-agency, and external users will be able to dial a +888 number assigned to a relief agency from anywhere in the world, and be immediately connected to that relief agency in the field, in whatever country being served. Not only that, the numbers need never change. Relief staff will be reachable on the same numbers in whatever location they are currently assigned.
Voxbone expects that it will take at least a year to deploy the country code +888 globally, but notes that there is good reachability already because of the existing agreements the company has with telcos across the world.
And with the support of the UN, the rest of the world should go quickly.