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Danish Demining Group (DDG) is piloting a two-way communication web portal and parallel SMS service to improve and safeguard access and movements in areas contaminated by mine and other explosive hazards.

The pilot uses available data on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and scrutinizes how data concerning potential threats to communities can be communicated to affected communities. In this way, DDG is making contamination data more widespread and accessible and thus DDG aspires to improve the level of awareness in affected communities and provide timely information.

Where’s the ideal pilot location?

The newly consolidated pilot team has recently changed the location of the pilot. Identifying the best location for designing and developing the innovation requires a combination of communication infrastructure, humanitarian access and information needs.

Somalia

First, Somalia was put under the microscope. An assessment was done in Somalia through interviews with key DDG staff deployed in Somali communities. Somalia is an evident pilot candidate for obvious reasons: Mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) still represent a significant danger to the population and access to accurate and timely information about risks is extremely limited.

However, due to the volatile context and related difficulties with access and safety, the project team decided against Somalia as the first choice to develop the innovation.

Syria

Secondly, the Syrian borders were scrutinized. Under the present exodus of 2,5 million Syrians to neighboring countries through UXO contaminated areas, the needs are certainly there. However, working with border zones poses infrastructural difficulties and sensitivities regarding information sharing. For these reasons, we turned to Vietnam.

Vietnam

DDG has been working in Vietnam since 2011. Even though the war in Vietnam ended almost 40 years ago, the country is still heavily contaminated by ERW. It is estimated that 1/5 of the country is still contaminated and that only 5% of that contamination has been cleared. Even though the contamination has been there for decades, the civilian population still fears the dangers posed by the contamination. Moreover, there has been a recent rise in casualties and accidents due to the long time that passed since the war; the new generation does not have the same knowledge of the dangers as the older generation, since they have not experienced the war themselves.

In Vietnam, DDG is focusing on Mine Risk Education – providing information on the risks in affected areas to the population. Besides this need for information about risks, consultations with the DDG team in Vietnam illuminated that the Vietnamese are becoming more technologically savvy and that their use of web and mobile-based technologies is on the increase.

mine_risk_education_training_-_duy_phu_primary_school_vietnam

Credit: DDG – Mine risk education training: Duy Phu Primary School, Vietnam

Have a look at this study that shows that mobile phones are now the primary source of information for the Vietnamese population in front of TV, Radio and newspapers (http://www.slideshare.net/bipi/inmobi-mobile-usage-in-vietnam-mma-forum-vietnam-oct-2013(link is external)).  Another study shows that Vietnam has the 8th highest number of mobile subscribers in the world (http://www.slideshare.net/Phuongbi/vietnam-digital-landscape-update-2013-sep2013mindshare(link is external)).

What’s next?

The fact that the pilot location has shifted to Vietnam does not mean that Somalia nor Syria are no longer being considered; the very raison d’être of this pilot is to ensure that the innovation can be adaptable into multiple contexts.

Next on the agenda is a mission to Vietnam to assess the context in more detail and how we can start the pilot based on needs and partnerships with the relevant stakeholders. This is in line with the fundamental participatory approach for this pilot:

ddg_diagram_

We’ll keep you posted on how this exciting scoping and design process will unfold!

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