SWALIM Wins Big!

During the week of 2-6 May, 2016, the SWALIM CTA was in Switzerland to receive the coveted WSIS award as a “Champion” in the category of “e-Agriculture”.  The WSIS prize, organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), recognizes innovative and successful efforts to harness ICTs in development work around the world. SWALIM’s breakthrough work in mobile data gathering, remote monitoring and dynamic mapping brought the attention of the award committee.

The Somali Water and Land Information Management project (SWALIM), initiated in 2001, is now approaching the end of its fifth phase (February 2013 to January 2017), which has focused on improved information outreach, wider dissemination and access, and intensified capacity development among partners and the stakeholder community.

The award from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is a clear indication of the importance and leading edge work that SWALIM has brought to the development of water and land management capacity in Somalia following years of civil strife and weak or non-existing government institutions.

In 2014, the project launched the Information, Communication and Knowledge Management (ICKM) Strategy, which laid the groundwork for many new initiatives in both data gathering and information diffusion.  In 2015, the SWALIM web site (www.faoswalim.org) was rebuilt from the bottom up to provide more direct access to important features and a powerful search system to locate documents from SWALIM’s archives.

Among the new features on the SWALIM web site are the updated Flood Risk and Response Management Information System (FRRMIS) (http://systems.faoso.net/frrims/), and the dynamic “Live Map” platform, which presents complex data sets on an easy-to-understand map interface (http://systems.faoso.net/imms/fmt/maps/website/227). The Live Map system is currently being expanded to include data on soils and land degradation, infrastructure interventions and other important information for decision makers.

In anticipation of the effects of heavy El Niño rains in late 2015, SWALIM developed an SMS-based mobile phone application to capture information about impending flood situations and to warn vulnerable communities along the Juba and Shabelle rivers. This system, known as FRISC/Digniin (from the Somali word for “warning”), was also used to alert fishing vessels and coastal communities about two cyclones that swept across the northern coast of Puntland in December, saving lives and averting severe property damage.

The FRISK/Digniin system is now being adapted and expanded to gather rainfall data throughout Somaliland and Puntland, as well as the central and southern areas of the country.  The rainfall data, like the river level information, is being fed directly into the on-line FRRMIS system to provide near-real-time updates on potential floods and inundations.

The WSIS Forum in 2016 represents the world's largest annual gathering of the “ICT for development” community. The Forum is co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with all WSIS Action Line Facilitators/Co-Facilitators (UNDESA, FAO, UNEP, WHO, UN Women, WIPO, WFP, ILO, WMO, UN, ITC, UPU, UNODC, and UN Regional Commissions).  Further information on the WSIS and its activities can be found here: http://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/stocktakingp/en.

SWALIM was encouraged to provide a submission to the 2016 WSIS award committee by colleagues in FAO Rome who were impressed with the advanced ICT applications employed by the project. During the final months of 2015, SWALIM staff, together with colleagues in Rome and Geneva, prepared the documentation which was later reviewed by the expert group judging the prize.

The SWALIM submission focused on four different initiatives undertaken by the project in the current Phase V (February 2013-January 2017):”

  • The Live Map platform, used for presenting complex data sets on a simple to read map interface
  • Land and Water data collection using low-cost smartphones
  • Remote monitoring to observe large swathes of territory
  • An SMS/mobile-phone-based flood early warning system for vulnerable communities in the Shabelle and Juba River valleys.

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