Residents of the Mekong Delta—a low-lying, densely populated coastal region in southern Vietnam—often have to bear the brunt of hostile weather conditions caused by flash floods and severe thunderstorms. In spite of government efforts to alleviate the situation, many Vietnamese remain ill-prepared to cope with the impact of natural disasters.
When disasters strike, public service organisations are not able to properly plan and execute their emergency response in the affected communities due to a lack of accurate information. Government agencies also face the added challenge of not having timely access to vital information to monitor the progress of disaster response in an effective manner.
Leveraging the reach of mobile technology, Microsoft is collaborating with nonprofit organisation ActionAid Vietnam to enhance data collection for community-based disaster preparedness in the Mekong Delta region. The project will involve equipping the local communities with 38 Lumia mobile handsets and the use of Microsoft Data Gathering to improve the way field data are being collected for disaster risk assessment—with the aim of empowering local communities with the tools and information they need to achieve effective disaster preparedness.
To be launched on 11 November, the project will be piloted in 16 villages across three rural communities: Tan Hung, Tan Hanh and Chau Khanh in Long Phu district, Soc Trang Province. A computer-based Disaster Risk Reduction Information Hub, with Microsoft Data Gathering integration, will also be established in Long Phu district to facilitate national-level disaster preparedness and response.
"Microsoft is pleased to team up with ActionAid to implement this pilot project. Supporting humanitarian relief and disaster management efforts is core to our commitment to developing solutions, tools and practices that can foster social and economic change. Vietnam’s telecommunications infrastructure has witnessed major developments in recent years, and we see huge potential for Vietnam to use mobile technology to help respond to natural disasters,” said Mei Ling Tan, Regional Sustainability Manager, Microsoft Mobile and Text2Teach Project Manager.
It is estimated that approximately 28,000 people from the three rural communities will benefit directly from the initiative, while 113,000 people in Long Phu district will benefit indirectly from this project, of which 15,000 are women.
Prior to the project launch, Microsoft and ActionAid conducted a workshop in August to train 160 local community members on the use of Microsoft Data Gathering to support community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM). During the workshop, the participants learned how to conduct disaster assessments and develop risk mitigation plans using mobile-enabled tools.
“The workshop was very useful and we were very impressed by the unique features of the Microsoft Data Gathering tool,” said Nguyen Van Thuan, a training participant from the Village Disaster Management Committee. “With the knowledge picked up from this workshop, I’m confident that we are now more prepared to facilitate disaster relief efforts with greater ease than ever before.”
Beyond disaster management, ActionAid is exploring future opportunities to adopt the use of Microsoft Data Gathering. For instance, the tool can potentially be used to deliver relevant information, such as the market prices of agricultural products and the latest updates on disease control, to help rural communities improve their daily livelihoods.