Teleporting decision-makers to humanitarian sites?

From 5 – 9 February 2018 OCHA held its annual Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) with meetings across networks, panel debates, expert talks, speed-networking, exhibits and networking opportunities related to humanitarian response and preparedness. UNs Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) and two Norwegian telecommunication companies participated at the event, displaying how new technology can enhance humanitarian information management and needs assessment.

33 different humanitarian networks held their annual meetings at Geneva’s international conference centre earlier this month, under the framework of the HNPW. About 1500 humanitarian coordinators and decisions makers attended. Norway was represented by the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB), Innovation Norway, the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva as well as seven private enterprises providing emergency food, water and sanitation solutions, tents, renewable energy, telecommunication and information management solutions to humanitarian response.

The Permanent Mission of Norway hosted an interactive booth on the topic “augmented reality” in cooperation with UNOSAT and two Norwegian companies, Marlink and AnsuR, delivering telecommunication and information management solutions to humanitarian response.

With support from amongst others Innovation Norway, UNOSAT is working on the development of virtual and augmented reality programmes (AR) for training and visualization purposes. The aim is to develop in-depth virtual images of humanitarian sites to be used by senior decision-makers who can be “teleported” to a given location and see for themselves what is happening on the ground, or by field workers to obtain a comprehensive knowledge of a site prior to arrival. Still in the early stages of development, the UNOSAT virtual reality programme already shows great promise. Many of the participants at the HNPW enjoyed trying out the equipment, seeing for themselves what is possible through new technology. If you missed out and are interested, try for yourself here.

Access to network coverage on site is indispensable to data transfer. It is often necessary for humanitarian workers to bring their own equipment to establish communication with their main office. At the stand during HNPW, Marlink, and their partner Paradigm, displayed a portable satellite that allows for quick and easy installation of internet connection to field workers. The satellite comes in a hand-luggage sized suitcase, and takes three minutes to install.

AR technology in humanitarian operations also depends on quick and easy transfer of images. The Norwegian Company AnsuR has developed the computer application Raido that enhances data collection and communication. It transfers photos without the need of manual handling, thus making the information collection several times faster.

Particular to the HNPW this year, was an increased focus on humanitarian-private cooperation. With the current emphasis on how new partners can help increase efficiency and quality of humanitarian efforts, and at the same time reducing the funding gap, HNPW provided a valuable open and inclusive venue to discuss these issues.