I visited Cambodia over the summer and was fortunate enough to visit the landmine museum (donate at Cambodian Self-Help Demining).
It has been 20 years since Lady Diana successfully campaigned against landmines. The world has moved on hugely and almost every person on the planet has a smartphone containing a billion transistors, we have sub $100 drones and satellites with sub-meter resolutions.
During this time millions of Pounds and Euros has gone from the taxpayer to the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) but brave men and women still clear mines by hand using metal detectors and sticks.
I wrote the the GICHD about a possible way forwards twice over the summer but did not receive an acknowledgement.
Unfortunately perverse incentives are at play. Since the landmine treaty, mines have become a scare resource. If there are no more mines, there is no need for a land mine clearance industry or for highly paid functionaries at the GICDH in Geneva.
Since I have not had a reply I am publishing my letter openly. I hope my readers find it interesting.
An open letter to the GICHD
17 August 2018, London
Dear Mr Rapillard,
I am a physicist and freelance project manager who has worked with the UN and private industry in the past. This summer I visited Cambodia for a holiday and I was fortunate enough to meet Bill Morse of Cambodian Self-Help Demining. It struck me, as it must have struck others, that the methods used to clear mines are very primitive.
On my return I did some research and quickly discovered the good work of the GICHD and the excellent paper you published in the APS in 2002.
I observe that there has been little substantial progress in mine detection technology that can aid people like Bill.
I have had the pleasure of working as a technical advisor to the International Maritime Organisation on the LRIT initiative and I am familiar with and have great respect for the work done by international organisations such as your own. It seems to me that GICHD is in a unique position to build a bridge between the traditional big government approach to social and technological issues and newly emergent agile transformation methodologies.
Have you considered engaging with the XPRIZE association? This is their mission,
OUR MISSION & THEORY OF IMPACT
At XPRIZE, we recognize two significant moments that are currently upon us with profound implications for humanity. First, that individuals are rapidly becoming more empowered to invent and innovate using democratized technologies—e.g., AI, robotics, 3D printing, blockchain, sensors, bio-tech, big data, etc.—that only a few short decades ago were capabilities only afforded by large governments and big organizations. And second, that these individuals are getting digitally connected to one another across the globe, thus enabling the formation of small, powerful, and agile teams that are able to collaborate and innovate in ways we, the human race, have never experienced.
A suitable challenge might read
Detecting Mines and other UXO
The Demining XPRIZE powered by the GICHD and is a $m competition (with $Xm as the Grand Prize and $0.Xm as Milestone prizes) challenging teams to remotely detect mines and other unexploded objects in a former battlefield.
Teams will revolutionise mine clearance by creating a device that can detect explosive devices on former battlefields enabling them to be used safely by local people.
The GICHD has nominated the as the test area. The device must
- detect 99.5% of the unexploded objects in this area
- have a false positive rate of less than 5%
- scan greater than 1000 m2 in 8 hours
I note that although it is possible that teams will actually solve the problem, the primary benefit of this prize will be to keep Humanitarian Demining in the public eye and promote the giving that keeps organisations such as Bill’s working.
I am a freelance project manager and I do not have a relationship with the XPRIZE association but if you would like to talk to me about this suggestion or any other technical project management challenges please give me call.