It's not clear from the news release exactly how this would work, but Alec Saunders spoke with Voxbone CEO yesterday and wrote this in a post:
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.
If this sounds somewhat familiar, Voxbone was the company behind rolling out the iNum country code of +883 back in 2008 (see my video interview with Rod Ullens from that time), which is designed to be a "global" country code that people could call from anywhere. (You can learn more about iNum's recent activity by listening to a January 2011 VUC interview with Voxbone.)
Congrats to Voxbone and the United Nations on this agreement and I look forward to seeing this effort get deployed!
If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: