Challenges abound for communities affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV): physical, food, and climate insecurity; limited opportunity; and limited access to key services and goods, to name just a few. To determine the assistance needed, distribute resources, and monitor progress, international donors and their implementing partners need to see, understand, and quantify local challenges by conducting site visits and meeting partners and beneficiaries.
Although COVID-19 ended such in-person engagements, data and local reports on projects can replace some site visits in many contexts. However, quality data collection in FCV settings is often unavailable, leaving local leaders and overseas counterparts without current information or “flying blind.”
The Korea Trust Fund for Economic and Peace-Building Transitions (KTF) is helping World Bank teams find innovative ways—such as using satellites or smart phones to collect current data—to keep projects on track during COVID-19.
I recently had the privilege of chairing a knowledge sharing seminar between the various teams that KTF supported. Here are some of the innovations presented.
The Geo-Enabling Initiative for Monitoring and Supervision (GEMS) builds capacity of local actors to use their own smartphones to improve data collection and the flow of decision-making information. This straight-forward approach—using a mix of locally available technology and open-source software developed overseas as well as customized training and technical assistance—enables locals to monitor their COVID-19 response or other activities in real-time, in a way that is customized to local circumstances and sector-specific needs.
GEMS supported three current KTF grants over the past four years, the latest focusing on the COVID-19 response and supporting over 650 projects in over 70 countries, training more than 4,000 client staff in these communities. For the COVID-19 response, GEMS-trained staff conducted detailed mapping of health services and applied it to several monitoring tasks, including tracking the delivery of over 10 million face masks and real-time monitoring of a livelihood support program. In creating capacity and ownership at the local level to use fit-for-purpose technology, GEMS has given local stakeholders the ability to respond more swiftly and effectively, using previously collected data and the human and technical infrastructure in place to update it.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon Islands monitoring the socio-economic effects of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic in real time was not possible by traditional means. A separate KTF-funded team from the World Bank Poverty Global Practice collected high frequency phone survey data from mobile phones using a Random Digit Dialing approach. These surveys gathered data on COVID-19 awareness and behavior change and the consequences of the pandemic on employment and income loss, food access, and food security. The team then used Call Detail Records (CDR) to measure short-term mobility changes and setup data-sharing infrastructure for future work.
In the Philippines, a team from the World Bank Global Practice on Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Administration (GPURL) used drones and smartphones to accelerate agriculture land titling in the Mindanao Region, where land allocation is one of the key drivers of conflict. COVID-19 measures slowed down the land titling process which is time-intensive and includes face-to-face interactions with farmers, leaving them waiting for this key source of dispute settlement. Now, high-resolution drone imagery increases the speed of surveying, reduces human interaction, and in combination with GEMS, enables the compilation of geotagged photos and essential information—like gender issues and conflict and dispute resolutions—on a single visual aid.
In India and Pakistan, World Bank teams learned from Korea’s use of geospatial data and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in their response to the COVID-19 crisis. Through its COVID-19 Epidemiological Surveillance Support System, Korea tracks infections, social-distancing, quarantining, and the supply chain for food and medical aid.
A key difference from the Korean example was the rising demand for land and temporary shelter that caused evictions and internal displacement in India and Pakistan due to COVID-19. Mapping and tracking the number of people internally displaced by COVID-19 and now living in shelters was a new aspect of the work. Similar geospatial investments could help other governments find, characterize, and aid these internally displaced people while also helping to better monitor, prevent, and control disease outbreaks.
Finally, in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, KTF is supporting a project that launched an automated SMS (Short Message Service) notification and data collection platform to communicate public health information on COVID-19. SMS-based applications in Central Asia were quite limited before and to our knowledge, not used in this way. However, this approach proved highly appropriate to COVID-19 lockdown conditions. In Tajikistan, the platform sent public health messages to more than 5.5 million phone subscribers. In Uzbekistan, it helped over 100,000 people make vaccine appointments and provided reminders using a targeted messaging system. Government counterparts now formally own these Mobile Engage systems. They plan to use them for public health messaging, vaccination, social assistance outreach, and program evaluation.
KTF financing is having a positive impact on service delivery efficiency and transparency, bringing innovation and technology to low- and middle-income countries at a fast pace and helping the World Bank and its local partners deploy resources quickly and efficiently through fit-for-purpose solutions that address the specific challenges and inequality of fragile and conflict-affected communities.
The Korea Trust Fund for Economic and Peace-Building Transitions (KTF) is a global fund administered by the World Bank to finance critical development operations and analysis in situations of fragility, conflict, and violence. The KTF is kindly supported by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Republic of Korea.