The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, a Switzerland-based international centre of expertise and knowledge on mine action, works in partnership with other mine action organisations to reduce the impact of mines and other explosive hazards.
"The ultimate goal is to reduce the impact of land mines and other explosive remnants of war."
As Elisabeth Vinek, information management support coordinator and project manager for MINT, the Mine Action Intelligence Tool, at the centre, told DataIQ: “The ultimate goal is to reduce the impact of land mines and other explosive remnants of war. We don’t go and demine ourselves, but we do this through enabling and empowering others to do their job better and in a more efficient way.”
Vinek explained that the principle software used to capture data on areas, people and resources affected by mines in over 40 countries is the Information Management System for Mine Action or IMSMA. “It's basically where a mine action programme stores all information related to mine action,” she said. IMSMA was developed by the centre, also known as GICHD, nine years ago. However, since then, shortcomings have surfaced.
IMSMA is not an analytics tool and does not allow for the easy creation of reports or visualisation of data. “There were complaints from those who contribute data, but get very little back, like a report, map or statistic. This led us to look at how we could make data more accessible and usable,” noted Vinek.
She said that she and her colleagues needed a tool that would allow them to easily access, analyse and visualise crucial pieces of information such as the location of hazardous areas. In 2013, the decision was made to establish an intelligence and reporting tool for the mine action sector. Vinek served as the tester of different tools and, ultimately, GICHD settled on TIBCO Software as a partner. There have since been two pilots using MINT, a significant number of organisations began using the tool last year, bringing the number to approximately 100.
She said there were three criteria for which TIBCO ticked all the boxes. The first was usability, as they wanted a tool that was intuitive and easy-to-use. The second was the licensing model. “We wanted something that was not on a per-user basis, but more a centralised installation that could have as many users as we want,” Vinek said. The third criteria was cost. She stated: “We have a limited budget, so we had to make a value-for-money analysis. TIBCO understood we were a not-for-profit which allowed us to stay within our budget.”
"MINT has allowed the data analysis process to be decoupled from one particular person.”
Specifically, MINT allows mine action centres and operators working in the area of humanitarian demining to generate and schedule reports, do in-depth analysis of data, and design meaningful dashboards and charts. It also allows the tracking of key indicators over time. The data is secure as it is only shared with authorised users. She said: “The beauty of a tool like MINT is that it can combine several sources and have integrated analytics done.”
She also said that MINT has allowed the data analysis process to be decoupled from one particular person in an organisation. “Some countries didn’t have any automated type of reporting and others did, but often what happened is there was one member of staff that developed something that worked well - when this person moved on, that was left up in the air and there was no one to take it over. That doesn't happen with MINT since it is a centrally supported tool,” she stated.
Vinek gave the example of Tajikistan Mine Action Programme as an organisation in the demining sector that has benefitted from using MINT. “Before they were reporting based in Excel exports and it was difficult to give external people access to it. When they started deploying MINT, they were directly in contact with the national authorities that co-ordinate the mine action activities. Since then, they have really opened it up and given access to all the implementing partners, the organisations doing the job on the ground, so they could see what went into the database, what they contributed to it, but also what others are doing and how that all contributes to the big picture of mine action in that country.”
According to the UN, 10 people a day are killed by landmines and these indiscriminate weapons are present in over 60 countries. Data and analytics are now forming part of the toolkit being used by actors and agencies that are trying to bring that number down.