Digital Technology: For Better and Faster Responses in the Future


Digital Technology: For Better and Faster Responses in the Future

Recently, ChatGPT, a new artificial intelligence chat service, has become more and more popular. The impact that it has brought is not limited to technological development, but may even rewrite the patterns of our work and daily life. From now on, perhaps, we may be consulting ChatGPT first for everything. However, it is still too early to tell whether this is progress or regress in the course of human history.

World Vision has been introducing digital technology into our relief and development work. An example is the development of contextualised mobile apps in multiple countries that allow community health workers to complete various tasks with just a smartphone, such as registering children, keeping growth records and performing analyses. With data being instantly uploaded, the processing time and number of files can be greatly reduced, making it more convenient to follow up on children’s health in the future. Then there is also the Last Mile Mobile Solutions (LMMS), a simple app developed by World Vision in collaboration with the IT industry, which enables rescuers responding to disasters to deliver reporting and distribute supplies in a faster and fairer way. The app is widely used by other humanitarian organisations as well.

After registering for LMMS, these residents from an impoverished community in Myanmar are given a card, which reassures them that they will receive what they need.

During the Haiti earthquake in 2010, World Vision was already using LMMS in its response to transfer payments to cash-for-work participants.

The Development of Last Mile Mobile Solutions

Last Mile Mobile Solutions (LMMS) is an independent technology system developed by World Vision in 2008 in collaboration with the IT industry. It combines software applications with custom hardware to digitise and simplify beneficiary registration, verification, distribution planning and management, monitoring and reporting with the ability to integrate with third-party applications. This helps to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. For 15 years, the system has been supporting workers of World Vision and other humanitarian organisations to conduct relief operations more rapidly and accurately.

Originally, “Last Mile” refers to the last stage of delivering commodities to a consumer by a transport company. World Vision, with its desire to meet the needs of recipients, aims to ensure the support offered can reach its destination accurately and quickly.

LMMS digitises and simplifies the registration and management of aid information, helps to save aid cost, and provides better resource management for a faster and fairer distribution. After registration, recipients will receive a card with a personal photo, a specific barcode and ID number, which will facilitate collection of supplies and enable staff to quickly check the information and records of card holders. LMMS can function without network and mobile device access, and can also run without electricity, adapting to a variety of environments and needs.

Globally, LMMS has more than 5 million registrations in over 40 countries, including Jordan, Ukraine, Guatemala and many developing countries across Africa and Asia. More than 20 humanitarian agencies are using LMMS, including UNHCR, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNFPA.

Changes brought by LMMS

  • At least a 50% time reduction for registration, distribution and reporting activities
  • 30% reduction in project-related budgetary costs in comparison to manual activities
  • 40% reduction in distribution staff and a corresponding reduction in related office and travel costs
  • A reduction in fraud and losses in inventory
  • Eliminating the need to capture thumbprints or signatures on paper reduces efforts on verification and paperwork
Watch video to learn more

A technology with multiple benefits

The sound of soothing music welcomes visitors at the waiting bay of a World Vision food distribution centre at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Hundreds of refugees stand in queues as they wait to get food rations for their families.

Among them is Hadija, who is seated on one of the lobby benches and quietly observing the unfolding activities. Despite being among the last in the queue, Hadija is assured that she will collect food for herself, her husband and three children.

The confidence that Hadija and other refugees have in the food distribution process has been enhanced by LMMS. It is designed to strengthen efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in services delivered by humanitarian organisations such as food. With LMMS installed on their phones, distribution officers are able to verify the identity (household size and unique ration card number) of refugees collecting food by scanning the barcodes on their registration cards. This guards against fraud by preventing multiple attempts to collect food by unscrupulous beneficiaries who previously used counterfeit cards.

“When the system was manual, it was hard to identify those that had already received their food rations. So, some people would get theirs and come back for more, many times. This resulted in others going without food,” recalls Hadija. “But now, even if I am the last in the queue, I know I will get food,” she says.

“The system can tells us where each commodity went. So if it doesn’t reach the intended beneficiaries, we will know,” states James Lopeyok, the Food Distribution Coordinator for World Vision at Kakuma Refugee Camp.

The system can digitally calculate the quantity of food that a person needs to collect, based on their family size. James highlights that this ensures that refugees get the right amount of supplies that they are entitled to, which helps with efficiency and prevents wastage.

Besides refugees, LMMS has also lightened the burden on aid workers. “They no longer need to examine many documents to verify the identity of refugees collecting food at distribution points. They can also monitor stock movement easily from their phones or computers,” notes Victor Mogire, World Vision’s Information Reporting Officer at Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Hadija and her three children are grateful for the sustainable food supply that they receive. Ever since World Vision started distributing food through LMMS, she is no longer anxious even if she is last in line.

By scanning the barcode on ID cards with the LMMS mobile app, World Vision staff at Kakuma Refugee Camp can verify the identity of refugees and the food portions they are entitled to.

Enhancing health service in communities with technology

In addition to developing LMMS for relief responses, World Vision also uses low-cost and easy-to-use digital technology in its community development work, which greatly enhances the efficiency of community health workers, clinics and hospitals. This means that more children and families living in areas with limited medical services can receive the health information and help they need in a timely manner.

To support the nutritional wellbeing of children under the age of five, since 1986, the government of Indonesia has been setting up community health stations (locally known as Posyandu) across the country and equipping community members to serve as health volunteers. In addition to registering and measuring the children, as well as assessing their health, the community health workers also have to provide advice for caregivers and prepare reports for various medical agencies. The massive amount of data processing and paperwork would often overwhelm the health workers, reducing the time they can dedicate to offering health counselling to children.

In 2013, to help meet the needs of children in communities across Indonesia, World Vision launched mPosyandu, the very first contextualised mobile app supporting the health system in Indonesia. The app enables health workers to register children’s identity, input children’s growth data and analyse the status of their growth on a phone, with the information instantly uploaded. This vastly reduces processing time and paperwork, and facilitates future inter-agency follow-up across different locations. The app also contains useful health information and materials that can support health workers in providing counselling, giving caregivers a better understanding through effective communication.

Fadliani’s daughter Auna is one of the children benefiting from the intervention. She was found to be moderately underweight by a community health volunteer using the app. As a result, Fadliani was invited to a World Vision Positive Deviance/Hearth nutrition programme, where she learnt to prepare nutritious meals to help improve Auna’s health. After 12 days of classes and putting the knowledge into practice at home, Fadliani was able to restore Auna’s weight to the normal level.

In countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, localised mobile apps have also been introduced to digitalise complex data processing procedures according to the local context, allowing World Vision to better monitor the health status of children in communities.

Through a mobile app, a community health volunteer was able to identify Fadliani’s daughter to be underweight. As a result, Fadliani was referred to a Positive Deviance/Hearth nutrition programme to learn about preparing meals to improve her daughter’s nutritional health.

In 2013, World Vision developed a mobile app to support the health system in Indonesia. The app enables health workers to upload data related to children’s health, which greatly enhances the efficiency of service.

Words from CEO

Each year on 20 June, the world celebrates World Refugee Day.

Passing on Blessings Like Sponsors

In Mike’s community in Malawi, children are quitting their education to find work to help their families earn money.

Supporting Women to Cope with Dzud

Anticipatory action is a new initiative that ensures steps are taken to protect people before a disaster strikes.

Mindsets Transformed to Tackle Drought and Eradicate Poverty

Teresia’s home in eastern Kenya resembles an oasis within a desert.