International non-governmental organization (NGO) SmartAID collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders: entrepreneurs, start-ups, manufacturers, the business community, impact investment community, local governments, donors and academics. It has a common objective to create, adapt and/or fund technological solutions and programs developed specifically to solve humanitarian challenges.
As SmartAID CEO and Founder Shachar Zahavi recently said, “We place people at the centre of the design and application of technology to provide the most productive and impactful support to communities in need. For humanitarian agencies like us, the pandemic has proven that secure, real- time, remote collaboration through the implementation of technology has never been more urgent when it comes to saving lives.”
However, SmartAID is not like many other NGOs or large corporate enterprises with unlimited resources – and its responsibility does not end at an airport or a warehouse. The SmartAID team tracks the aid it provides all the way to the end recipient and ensures campaign and mission donors and partners have full visibility of when, where and who the aid has reached. That’s a heavy lift considering it has delivered over $13 million in aid to date and its support extends across every continent, mostly in developing countries or disaster situations where expediency is absolutely critical.
Fortunately, almost all the developing countries where SmartAID has projects are mobile-first nations, meaning they have low personal computer penetration but very high mobile penetration, with Android™ being the preferred operating system (OS) due to device brand choice and price range.
So, with a little bit of innovation and the right technology partner – Zebra Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Partner, Wizy.io – SmartAID was able to come up with a way to track aid movements and deliveries, even from a distance. It became a literal life saver during the pandemic.
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Up until late 2019, SmartAID – like many international NGOs – would deploy its own front-line teams for each project to work directly with partner NGOs and document aid shipments in action. Once COVID-19 emerged, this was no longer possible due to changing border and immigration requirements and safety concerns.
“With much of the globe, including our own teams, either locked down or directly affected by COVID-19, we were watching a desperately spiralling situation unfold before our very eyes with so many devastating and heart-breaking images,” explained WizyVision CEO Laurent Gasser. “We knew as a company we had to act and offer to lend a hand.”
Around that same time, with its board and management team dispersed across different locations and time zones, it became apparent to SmartAID that it needed real-time, remote visibility into what was both needed and being provided by local teams in the field. This was critical in continuing to reach those people who needed help and to continue to be able to report back to donors and support ongoing fundraising efforts.
However, SmartAID quickly discovered that it wasn’t enough to simply ask partners and volunteers in the field to take pictures and send them through. With multiple projects occurring simultaneously in different countries, images were being sent via different media to different individuals. And project summaries were scattered across multiple devices and media. It became challenging and time-consuming for the SmartAID team to piece everything together, and it was near impossible for a remote team to find and collaborate on images. Also, the risk of losing valuable images and data was high.
So, the WizyVision team connected with SmartAID to offer a solution that would support the valuable work done by the organization and ensure it could continue during the pandemic’s darkest hours.
The WizyVision Intelligent Image Database and WizyVision Frontspace App for front-line workers (available in the Google Play store) is built on Google Cloud and Google’s Vision API. WizyVision is a cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) product that uses images to power front-line work.
The SmartAID administrator is now able to pre-configure projects and missions in the web-based console and invite users who are on the front line at the location where aid is being delivered to collaborate and contribute to the project. The pre-configuration involves providing role-based access along with enforced tagging in the intelligent digital image database.
This provides multiple outcomes and improvements for SmartAID volunteers, partners, and other stakeholders. For example, when a person in the field downloads the Frontspace front-line worker app and logs in from an Android device, they can capture and upload a photo, document or video to the intelligent image repository in just one click. The role and enforced tagging means the files are automatically sorted and categorized in the repository on upload – the front-line worker does not need to worry about to whom, when or how to send items. Plus, each worker can only see the pictures related to their role, so there is no risk of mixing documents and photos from different countries and projects or having those photos tampered with. The Frontspace front-line worker app also allows the administrator to preconfigure a workflow or process for additional data collection and tracking of cases and tasks linked to the images taken.