Ridding the world of land mines, 1 MB at a time
This blog is by Hossein Moiin, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Nokia Networks.Twitter: @nokianetworks
When I met 6-year-old Shah Bibi in 2012, she was in bad shape.
Missing both an arm and an eye, Shah Bibi had been the victim of a latent land mine of war in Afghanistan. Thinking that the device was a rock, she threw it playfully to her brother. When the “rock" exploded, he died and Shah Bibi suffered serious injuries that would later require treatment from specialists organized by the Children of War Foundation in the U.S. Despite her physical and emotional wounds, when I met Shah Bibi for the first time, she was smiling. And her optimism has inspired me to try to prevent more tragedies like hers.
According to Unicef, between 10 to 15 million land mines remain in various regions across war-ravaged Afghanistan. These explosives are often camouflaged to look like rocks or pineapples, luring even the most uninterested child. Afghanistan represents just one piece of a larger problem: An estimated 110 million land mines remain in 64 countries around the world.
Organizations like HALO Trust are working to rid war-torn areas of land mines, but they need better communication options and new processes in order to make any sort of serious headway. Currently, the group removes mines manually and with low-tech metal detectors. Better detection equipment exists, but it requires new training and a significant amount of knowledge sharing between those behind the technology and the people on the ground actually using it.
One way to create this open communication is to embed mobile devices in the goggles of each crew member. No, this doesn't mean every worker needs Google Glass. In fact, it can be much simpler – a smart phone with video capability and a camera. This way, experts in Scotland or San Francisco can see what the field person in Afghanistan or Cambodia sees while talking him or her through the removal process. This type of communication could increase removal success rates and the job could be done both safer and faster.
Sounds promising, but there's another hurdle to clear: connection to the network, typically provided by a cellular network. These areas are largely uninhabitable – who would ever choose to live near hidden land mines? That's why cellular coverage in these areas is abysmal and the people in the field often have trouble communicating with one another. This needs to change – and it can.
Nokia's LTE Network in a Box (NIB) is one example of an initiative that can help with communication in these dangerous areas. Operators can use the NIB to deploy broadband in remote locations and areas where disasters have recently occurred. For example, it was used to aid in disaster relief following the earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2012, where Nokia NIB enabled the transmission of 3-D prosthetic renderings to treat victims.
Still, while the hardware exists, someone needs to be on the ground to implement it – and I want to be the person who makes that happen.
As a global leader in the communications industry, Nokia has both an interest and an obligation to ensure our technology is used to help solve real-life problems. We are lobbying leaders in various governments to ensure that the proper technology is provided to organizations like HALO and that they have the skills and training to make the process of land mine removal faster and safer for everyone. This spring, I'll be visiting Afghanistan to deepen my collaboration with HALO and to ensure that our sector – the technology sector – can bring about the right solutions to this problem. I'll also be participating in a series of events of fundraisers during the spring and summer of 2016 to raise money and awareness amongst my colleagues and friends in the technology industry. The more we understand the problem, the more we can help.
Before Shah Bibi returned to Afghanistan, she drew me a picture with her new arm. The abstract painting now hangs in my home as a gentle reminder of the powerful chance we have to change lives with the help of the same technology most of us often take for granted.
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