Innovative technology connecting hard-to-reach populations in Vanuatu

Source: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 12:39 AM
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Vanuatu, in the Pacific, is resilient. And that’s because it has to be. As well as the cyclone season typical of the tropics, the country is hit by regular earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity. In 2015, Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated the country.

The multitude of challenges exacerbates the many and urgent competing priorities for resources in disaster response and preparedness. Until recently, while many systems and networks had been put in place to support communication and community engagement (CCE), the government, non-governmental organisations and community representatives recognised that the systems did not work effectively.

The openness of the Vanuatu government, and its recognition of the need to support more robust systems of CCE, facilitated a response: not least because the country has experienced the consequences of poor communication recently and repeatedly. In 2018, the CDAC Network, in partnership with Ground Truth Solutions, funded by the Australian Government (DFAT) and in close cooperation with the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Organisation undertook a scoping mission to better understand communication and community engagement needs in the country. The resulting report, drafted by CARE Vanuatu, recommended, among other things, that a common service for CCE be embedded in the existing emergency infrastructure and that systems already in place be strengthened.

The common service platform, the Communications and Community Engagement Sub-Cluster was founded in 2019. The platform is comprised almost entirely of Vanuatu people and organisations, with members from a diverse range of sectors, including representation from governments, NGOs, INGOs, multilateral organisations, as well as from media and telecommunications entities. This is opening up new opportunities to collaborate and foster perspectives and ideas for action that have not previously been explored.

Following its introduction into Fiji by UNICEF, the data collection tool Rapid Pro is about to be trialled in Vanuatu using the network of telecoms provider Digicel, as well as on the ground networks of INGOs, NGOs, churches and the government. RapidPro collects data via SMS and other communication channels (for example: voice; social media channels, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WhatsApp) to enable real-time data collection and mass-communication with target end-users, including beneficiaries and frontline workers. It allows the CCE Sub-Cluster to gather accurate real-time information on vital areas such as health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation, and protection, even in remote and hard-to-reach places, and use that data to reach those most in need – before, during and after a disaster. The data collected can then help inform disaster preparedness initiatives and can direct any response.

You can find out more about Vanuatu CCE Sub-Cluster by reading the scoping mission report.

CDAC supports more than 20 national and regional common service platforms across the globe. Find out more about these platforms by checking out our common service status update.

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The CDAC Network is a growing platform of more than 30 humanitarian, media development, social innovation, technology, and telecommunication organisations, dedicated to saving lives and making aid more effective through communication, information exchange and community engagement.

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