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‘World Bank’ adopts geospatial surveillance and tracking

GEMS stands for Geo-Enabling Initiative For Monitoring & Supervision, and it is being adopted by the World Bank to monitor and control people throughout its lending world. It promises to “maximize development impacts and human capital”. — Technocracy News & Trends Editor Patrick Wood

The COVID-19 crisis has not only led to an exacerbation of poverty and the undoing of development gains in many countries around the world, but it has also shed light on the significant access constraints and data gaps on local conditions that the international development community has had to face. However, access to granular ground data remains indispensable to accountably monitor the provision of urgently needed emergency relief for communities in need amidst the pandemic and to build back better in a transparent way.

The Geo-Enabling initiative for Monitoring and Supervision (GEMS) is a global program launched by the World Bank that trains government agencies, donors and development practitioners to systematically leverage field-ready technology for remote real-time monitoring and adaptive risk management related to development activities. GEMS aims to create a Public Good and build capacity with local stakeholders to adapt geospatial open-source tools to specific needs. Through this, GEMS aims to support a democratization of geospatial data collection and analysis, to further enhance accountable service delivery in developing countries around the world.

The innovative GEMS method provides a highly-demanded solution for the problem of limited real-time information from the field, during the COVID-19 pandemic, in situations of Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV), and beyond. A central element of GEMS is to use simple-enough and low-cost tools, such as KoBoToolbox, that are appropriate for any environment and can be owned and scaled sustainably by local stakeholders. The core of GEMS is hands-on support provided to project implementation units to help them create customized geospatial monitoring and risk management systems, in response to local development challenges.

GEMS was launched in 2018 and is supported by the Korea Trust Fund for Economic and Peacebuilding Transitions (KTF) and the World Bank Partnership Fund for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Fund). As of March 2022, GEMS has supported over 800 development projects in 90+ countries and trained more than 5,000 government staff around the world in geospatial monitoring techniques. Also, various Multilateral Development Banks, UN Agencies, bilateral donors, and NGOs, are adopting GEMS for their COVID-19 response and beyond. Therefore, GEMS was listed by the United Nations among the best UN innovations in 2020 and it received a 2021 Geospatial World Excellence Award from the Geospatial World Forum.

Extending the reach of development in the most fragile situations

Fragility and violent conflicts do not only result in destruction, displacement, and devastation, but also entail access constraints on the ground, for security and logistical reasons. Therefore, even long before the COVID pandemic, there has been urgent demand by development practitioners for solutions to remotely supervise projects and improve the capacity of local stakeholders to conduct well-structured and accountable Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). GEMS was launched to close information gaps in such areas with limited access to get eyes on the ground, where we cannot always have boots on the ground.

GEMS is an integral part of the World Bank Group’s FCV Strategy and has been deployed to get real-time insights in FCV settings like Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Haiti, Kosovo, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Yemen. Around the world, GEMS team members have supported projects through a range of effective geospatial monitoring tools, from mobile data collection over interactive dashboards, to remote sensing analyses through satellite imagery.

The real-time field insights created through GEMS have helped enhance urgently needed service delivery in fragile contexts. Moreover, the geospatial tools have supported the provision of relief services for victims of violence, through the systematic mapping of medical, psycho-social and legal service providers for GBV survivors. This helps protect the most vulnerable and maximize development impacts and human capital, while building peace incentives for communities.

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