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Pakistan: Improving Response to Humanitarian Crisis Through Technology

News | September 29, 2014

Winning innovators of Making All Voices Count’s first Global Innovation Competition (GIC) were called on last month to devise and implement a strategy to ensure relief for citizens in Pakistan hit hard by heavy floods.

Bahawalpur Service Delivery Unit (BSDU), an initiative led by Imran Sikandar Baloch, District Coordination Officer (DCO) of Bahawalpur, incorporates successful use of smartphones by government officials to monitor student and teacher attendance in the Punjab region.

Bahawalpur, Pakistan was devastated by floods Summer 2014

Photo credit: Dawn


Upon winning Making All Voices Count’s first GlC on April 4, 2014 Baloch said the ambition was to extend the initiative into health, livestock, and agriculture.

In light of the severe floods that hit the Punjab province of Pakistan, taking many lives and damaging infrastructure, BSDU have been deploying this same technology to meet humanitarian needs on the ground.

Asim Fayaz and Imran Sikandar Baloch of BSDU at Making All Voices Count’s Global Innovation Gala

Asim Fayaz and Imran Sikandar Baloch of BSDU at Making All Voices Count’s Global Innovation Gala

As flood warnings were raised, Baloch’s unit were called upon to develop an application to track flood-affected victims. As stated in Dawn, this was a joint effort of BSDU and the Punjab Urban Unit.

“It’s not easy for relief and rehabilitation workers to track victims in the wake of an emergency when they flee to save their lives and belongings,” he told The News.

Known as the “superflood,” thousands of villages were affected and as reported in The News, an economist said this event is likely to reduce the GDP of Punjab – the largest province in the country – by 2.5 %.

During the aftermath, teams were dispersed to different water-submerged areas to send images and geotag people’s situations. This information was used to coordinate with government relief teams and resulted in 18,000 people being provided with food and other essential necessities.

Earlier this month, BSDU was highlighted in the Guardian in an article featuring digital public services from across the world. The initiative is unique as usually government accountability projects come from civil society, however this is led by a changemaker working within government.

Government officials in Punjab, Pakistan using SMS technology

Government officials in Punjab, Pakistan using SMS technology

Currently, Making All Voices Count is calling for entries for the second annual GIC open now until October 15, 2014. The GIC is designed to tackle a different governance and accountability problem each year and invites the public to identify and vote on entries.

One of the themes for the GIC 2015 is building resilience and response to humanitarian crisis. Innovation Director Daudi Were explains, “technology is changing response to humanitarian crisis, by providing faster and more efficient ways to locate and respond to victims.”

The competition offers a total of £300,000 in grants, expert mentorship and a week of invaluable networking and mentorship in Jakarta, Indonesia as part of the Global Innovation Week. For more information or to enter see here.