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Acquiring Skills and Knowledge In Emergencies (AKSIE)

Refugee women and girls in Afghanistan, returning from Pakistan will have access to life-saving information through pre-programmed tablets.

Photo of Evert Jan Pierik
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What problem does your innovation solve?

In emergency situations people (beneficiaries and practitioners) find it challenging to access information and share knowledge. Victims of disasters or violent conflicts find themselves deprived from their normal communication channels. Preventing them from using and further developing their skills and knowledge. This project aims to develop an interactive communication device that enables the sharing of skills and knowledge between women in the Afghan emergency setting through IT technology.

Explain your innovation.

The innovation provides women and girls in Afghanistan, coming from Pakistan refugee camps, with access to essential and life-saving information provided by humanitarian agencies through the supply of pre-programmed tablets. The tablets will in first instance come with a platform for literacy training, but also allow for direct communication between the users of the platform. The proposed IT device will have outcomes at two distinct and sequential levels. 1. It will firstly facilitate one-way communication from service provider to users with the focus on literacy services, provision of information and raising awareness. 2. Once proven functional and socially accepted, the device will facilitate two-way communication between users of the platform. CARE NL and ZOA NL have joined forces to develop this idea. They are in contact with a Dutch company that has vast experience in "serious gaming". This company offers applications for large enterprises in the Netherlands that facilitate peer-learning between employees. The company now offers to tailor-make a similar application for peer-learning between refugees. In this way refugees can learn from each other independent from the location where they are. Also, the application can be used to reach people with information that otherwise would not have been possible (e.g. women in Afghanistan).

Who benefits?

In Afghanistan women and girls are hard-to-reach. Traditional conventions restrain their movements outside their homes, thus creating considerable barriers for them to interact with others outside their households. In this restrictive context Afghan refugees from Pakistan are forced to return. Among the refugees are women and girls who may have experienced a relatively wider exposure to information and knowledge. ‘Returnees’ may have relevant knowledge to share with their Afghan neighbors from their lives in Pakistan, and need for information to build up their new lives. Also, returning women may have had ample exposure to different value sets. This is an asset when those women can be included in activities for social change. It is also possible that returning women become frustrated when they see that the freedom they had in Pakistan is curtailed in the Afghanistan context. Returnees find it difficult to adjust to the new environment, which is compounded by lack of information.

How is your innovation unique?

What we do different is that we bring the element of "serious gaming" in the learning in an emergency setting. We use the assumption that most people learn most and best by playing. This has proven to be effective under 'normal' conditions. We now will experiment with this concept of playful learning under more extreme circumstances. What we know from other similar initiatives is that learning is done in a one-way direction, while our innovation will use two-way learning. People upload their knowledge and skills unto the platform, where others can access and download this information. Therefore, people (refugees) create content themselves. When our initiative is successful it is because the users determine what relevant information should be added to their platform.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

First of all, we need to find out if the mobile networks are strong enough to support the application. Also what we need to discover is whether women and girls will be allowed by their male family members (fathers, husbands) to interact with other women, even on a mobile device. The most pressing question however is, if and how women and girls will be able to apply their knowledge and skills that they have acquired through the application. To test these questions we have decided to pilot the application in a safe and restricted digital environment (only accessible for members of the same women's group). Once we know more about the impact of the mobile application we intend to lift some of the restrictions.

Tell us more about you.

CARE Netherlands and ZOA Netherlands are both humanitarian organisations with a strong view to recovery and rehabilitation. CARE Netherlands is member of the larger CARE family, where ZOA Netherlands is an independent organisation. Our organisations are not active in the MIKTA countries, as we focus on responding humanitarian crises and on building people's resilience and capacity to respond to shocks. Both organisations are actively seeking collaboration with the private sector in this project.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

CARE and ZOA respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by the forced return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. Both organisations experience that the returnee population is hard-to-reach with emergency aid and life-saving information, in particular the returnees who are not living in camps, but live scattered in urban areas, which makes it difficult to reach them. However, it is expected that in these urban areas mobile phone coverage is good, enabling the use of mobile applications.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Our pilot project will be implemented in the urban areas of Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan. In those areas we will work predominantly with already existing women's groups, that have organised themselves. When it is proven in the pilot phase that the concept is culturally and socially acceptable and that the software can be sustained by the existing infrastructure, the project will be rolled out to other areas in Afghanistan and potentially to other emergency settings.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

CARE has been present in Afghanistan for more than 60 years. ZOA is working in Afghanistan since 2003. The development and implementation will be done by local teams of both organisations. Especially CARE has a vast network of women's groups that potentially can participate in the development of the innovation.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

CARE and ZOA both work in Afghanistan with the concept of women's self-help groups. Both organisations have identified the huge potential of reaching these groups and other women groups via a mobile application.

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Our teams are based in Afghanistan (Jalalabad and Kabul). The teams are supported by staff from our offices in the Netherlands.



Join the conversation:

Photo of Balint Katona

@Evert Jan Pierik

Hi Evert,

just fyi, you might be interested



Photo of Evert Jan Pierik

Hi Balint,
Thank you very much for sharing these links. It seems that the work of Vodaphone is strongly aligned with what we envisage with our application. We will certainly look into the opportunities there. For now we will focus on researching needs for acquiring knowledge and skills of women and girls in Afghanistan.
Evert Jan

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