Afghanistan: Project field workers in six regions in Afghanistan have been using GPS cameras since February 2010, producing photographs of 650 locations that are setting a baseline from which progress will be measured, according to Usman Qamar, the World Bank’s lead on the USD 127 million Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation Project. The project is financed through the International Development Association, the arm of the World Bank that provides grants and no-interest loans.
“It’s a very powerful tool. It provides authentic confirmation that a particular asset was built and actually exists at that location,” Qamar said. He is working with a World Bank Group innovation team and the Afghanistan Ministry of Energy and Water to develop a system that documents and maps project milestones and relates them to other development data.
The effort is piloting a type of “remote supervision” that World Bank information, communications and technology (ICT) experts hope will improve project outcomes and result in better services for poor people in developing countries.
In proposing GPS cameras be used for the Afghanistan irrigation project, members of the South Asian regional ICT innovation team at the World Bank – Deepak Bhatia, Naseer Rana, Pratheep Ponraj and Kimmoye Byron—said one major aim was to make it easier to supervise a large project with hundreds of sites by allowing staff to be more selective about site visits.
Use of GPS cameras built on a practice already in place by the project to “geo-reference” irrigation rehabilitation through photographs. Under that system, field workers took photos that included landmarks. Now, the photos with GPS information are downloaded in regional offices and e-mailed—or hand-carried—to Ministry headquarters in Kabul, where trained personnel view the images through a web browser or Google Earth and add them to the project database.
While Google Earth does not currently show high-resolution or recently updated images of Afghanistan, the geo-referenced photos and updated images taken periodically, can be embedded in GIS maps that display other development-oriented attributes such as administrative boundaries, land classification, agricultural productivity and crop data.
The Bank innovation team is developing beneficiary tracking and service-verification systems in other regions as well, including in the Indian state of Karnataka, to measure the effectiveness of maternal and infant health services. “The system will likely employ increasingly ubiquitous and cheap cell phones to record, in real time, the results of visits to remote areas by health professionals to determine whether the programs are working well,” said Bhatia.
Parts of this pilot will be funded by a grant from the Governance Partnership Facility, supported by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Norway. The facility also funds the work of the innovation team.