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May 26, 2011

UN gets a telephone country code for disaster relief

According to a post by Alec Saunders, the United Nations has been given its own country code — you know, the thing that confuses Americans get wrong when we have to call another country. “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.” Here’s Alec’s explanation, based on a conversation with Voxbone CEO Rodrigue Ullens:

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.