Unexpected connections: SI student uses technology to help underserved areas

By | February 22, 2019
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Mercy Corps intern and UMSI grad student John Traylor (left) and Mercy Corps ICT consultant Robert Claro run rooftop cables at a refugee camp in Moria, Greece. (UMSI)

School of Information graduate student John Traylor knew the work he was doing in Puerto Rico to shore up communications infrastructure some nine months after Hurricane Maria was important, but it wasn’t until the project was finished that he fully understood the impact. That’s when one of the residents came by and uttered one very recognizable word—”Wi-Fi”—and delightedly held up a device. “He came to us with a picture of a little girl—I assume a daughter—and he was so happy,” said Traylor, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the U-M School of Information. 

Upon his return, Traylor connected with Ed Happ, an executive fellow at UMSI who teaches a course in crisis informatics, which addresses the importance of communication in a natural disaster or humanitarian effort. It was through an internship program directed by Happ that Traylor was able work with a group called Mercy Corps to bring technology to other underserved populations.

“The technical skills I learned on my deployments and the relationships I’ve made have already guided me towards an exciting new career,” he said. “I’m so happy to have had this opportunity to not only learn, but also to make real change. That said, I think the work has just begun.”