April marks the beginning of cyclone season in Cox’s Bazar. In two months, monsoon season begins. Now, imagine this: you’re a field logistician and it has been raining for three days in a row. You know the roads may have been affected but you don’t know how serious nor where. You also know humanitarian cargo needs to reach the largest refugee camp in the world. How do you plan it effectively? Your team came back from the camps this afternoon and they saw a landslide blocked a vital entrance. How do you share this information with other logisticians?
The Logistics Sector Bangladesh and its partners live this scenario every day and know very well the value of up-to-date information. The community has been looking for ways to ensure agile and accurate road information can be accessed on time to make key logistics decisions.
“The platform project is a partner-driven approach towards what we call a humanitarian logistics gateway,” says Preparedness Project Lead Martin Keitsch.
“The idea is to combine information from national, international and other available data sources, as well as inputs and reports from people working in the field, to allow the humanitarian community to have an at-a-glance overview of logistics infrastructure and availability.”
That overview is crucial in contexts such as Cox’s Bazar where validated, near real-time information on road conditions can speed-up response times dramatically, especially during cyclone and monsoon seasons. This is exactly what the Global Logistics Cluster’s latest pilot project aims to accomplish: utilising innovative digital technology that will allow road access constraints to be reported, analysed and published quicker and more efficiently, so that ultimately, humanitarians can respond faster.
“The beauty of the pilot is its user-driven development. Partners have a real need for a tool like this one and we have been looking for different solutions and designs to ensure we could bridge the time gap between a constraint being reported and partners knowing about it. The platform development with the Global Logistics Cluster fits right where it is needed: simple and relevant to the user,” says Logistics Sector Coordinator Otávio Costa.
The platform uses one of the closest data sources there is: responders in the field.
“The tool has been tailored for field conditions. If you would pass by a road and see that there is a landslide, or another constraint, you can immediately report this to the system. The humanitarian community can then be updated on the latest logistics information in near real-time and can visualise where these constraints are on an interactive map,” explains Martin.
Last month, the Logistics Sector Bangladesh and the Global Logistics Cluster hosted a workshop on the platform’s physical road access constraints mapping application. 15 participants from 12 organisations joined the two-day event, which marked the completion of the technology’s first stage of development.
“Having this tool, this platform that pulls information from so many different sources will save us a lot of time and will help us to trust the data we’re getting,” says Faith Purcell from Hope Field Hospital.
The workshop was critical to allow developers and responders to work together in ensuring the new technology is closely linked with operational needs and it constituted the first step of the platform’s gradual integration to the Rohingya Response structure and within the wider national disaster management context. The first field test is anticipated to begin as early as mid-April, implementation will be closely monitored, and lessons learned will be crucial as the technology will be introduced across different operational contexts in the future.
“We have really started to see some momentum with this technology and what it’s able to achieve both within the Cox’s Bazar context but also in a broader sense. An example is the recent Cyclone Idai operation, where WFP is using an adapted version of the platform’s mapping technology as part of the Mozambique response to identify road access constraints and get information to partners faster,” says Martin.
The physical road access constraints application is just one component of the Logistics Cluster’s wider digital Preparedness Platform project. With development ongoing, a first Minimum Viable Product of the overall tool is expected to be available and rolled out towards the end of the year. For more information regarding the project, keep an eye on our Preparedness Project webpage and the Logistics Sector Bangladesh webpage to check the last updates from the implementation.