Networking to Save Lives and Money

By Maria Behan Print this article Print

In its global battle against human rights abuses, International Justice Mission deploys advanced network technology.

John Lax, the vice president of information systems at International Justice Mission, measures the return on technology investments differently from most other IT leaders. “We measure ROI in terms of lives changed and people saved,” he says. Lax adds that network-optimizing technology has had a significant positive impact on IJM’s ROI, in both the life-saving and the balance-sheet sense.

IJM is a Christian human rights organization that fights abuses such as forced labor and police brutality. “We work on a case-by-case basis to free people from sex slavery and other kinds of oppression,” Lax explains. “We also work within the local legal system to see that laws are enforced and perpetrators are thrown into jail for their offenses.

“In many of the locations where we operate, that’s a novel thing to happen. But when it does, word gets around that it’s not worth committing those crimes, and that becomes a deterrent.”

Another major IJM goal is structural transformation. “We promote equal protection for the poor in the areas we work in, which will ultimately translate into there being no more victims,” Lax reports. “We’re hoping to work ourselves out of a job—to not be needed anymore because there aren’t any more victims.”

Until that happens, Lax’s job is providing the global technology infrastructure that lets IJM strive for its lofty goals. “My role is figuring out how to keep the organization functioning as efficiently as possible from a technology perspective,” he says. “A lot of that involves doing a cost-benefit analysis on the best ways to maintain essential systems for information sharing.”

Much of Lax’s focus has been on centralizing and beefing up IJM’s worldwide network. The success of that effort depends on the use of Riverbed Technology’s WAN optimization tools, including Steelhead appliances and the Riverbed Optimization System.

“Riverbed allows us to set up a viable communications infrastructure with decent bandwidth without spending a huge amount of money,” Lax says. “And rather than just looking at what we’re saving strictly in terms of dollars and cents—which is about $4,800 a month—we also look at what we can do with the money we save. If we use it to hire a staff member or an aftercare worker in a field office, that person might go on to save roughly 40 people a year, which is a pretty impressive ROI in my book.”

Lax says the network has helped save the lives of both IJM clients and field workers. “When rescuing people from violence, our staff members run the risk of violence themselves,” he explains. “They face threats almost every day, and having a stable communications network helps us keep them safe.”

This article was originally published on 2011-01-28
Maria Behan is a freelance writer for Baseline
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