Meet the

The selection process was divided into two rounds. During the first phase, we selected 10 First Round Winners. These teams joined us for an intensive two-day Design Sprint, where they worked with Advisors and DFAT representatives to refine their solutions. All teams benefited from this process and are now better prepared to implement their solutions in the Pacific.

The final phase focused on funding, where we narrowed the pool down to five Winning Innovations who will share in the 2 million AUD challenge fund. We look forward to seeing how all the teams progress over the course of the year.


Mobile SME Insurance in the Pacific Islands

Challenge Topic: Financial Resilience
Team: Marie Kyle, Gustaf Agartson, Puay-Lim Yeo, Simon Schwall,
Jon Vance, Stewart Langdon, Vaughan Lindsay
Market: PNG, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Nauru

The Pacific Islands are exposed to extreme natural events and political instability, in addition to the normal threats to personal health and safety. However, less than five percent of the population is protected by formal life, health, or other personal insurance.

When adverse events occur, they impact uninsured families almost immediately, derailing their financial situation and pushing them back into poverty. This has a compounding effect on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that can find their physical and human capital affected. For example, during a natural disaster, uninsured employees may struggle to afford healthcare causing extended absences from work, prompting them to ask employers for financial support.

Offering insurance as an employee benefit is an effective way to improve the financial resilience of SMEs, but many of these companies struggle to provide such a service. Challenges include the complexity and high cost of traditional insurance products and a lack of understanding of the value of insurance.

Whilst insurance levels in the region are woefully low, 60-100 percent of the population has access to a mobile phone. LeapFrog and BIMA, in partnership with the mobile network operator Digicel, have created an innovative new model that uses mobile technology to bring low-cost employee insurance directly to SMEs in the Pacific Islands. This groundbreaking approach is expected to bring the power of insurance to 800,000 people within 24 months, at a price of just US $25-$85/family/year.

This initiative will significantly improve the financial resilience of the Pacific Islands, fueling financial inclusion and creating economic opportunities for the people who need it most.

BIMA is a leading provider of mobile-delivered insurance in emerging markets. BIMA uses technology to bring insurance directly to low-income families. Over the past five years, BIMA has expanded into 14 markets across Africa, Asia and Latin America and is serving over 20 million customers. In the Pacific, BIMA launched operations in PNG in 2014 and currently has over 311,000 customers, 90 percent of whom are low-income and 88 percent of which are buying insurance for the first time.

LeapFrog is a global leader in "Profit with Purpose Investing." LeapFrog invests in fast-growing financial service companies that focus on low-income or financially excluded people in Africa and Asia. LeapFrog reaches over 50 million people, of whom 36 million are low income, with over 100 different products and service across 21 countries. The remarkable reach of LeapFrog’s portfolio companies is not only driving impact in its own right, but is also enabling LeapFrog to develop deep insight into common themes and issues that companies face in driving financial inclusion. LeapFrog Labs drives this knowledge sharing, impact and innovation across this portfolio.

Connect @bimamobile

Pacific Drone Imagery Dashboard (PacDID)

Web tool to comprehensively compile drone imagery

Challenge Topic: Communications - Understanding the data we have
Team: Cristiano Giovando, Nate Smith, Tyler Radford, Yantisa Akhadi
Market: Pacific Region

Small portable drones have been increasingly used for mapping areas affected by natural disasters or to support resilience and preparedness projects where the use of traditional aerial surveys are not sustainable. As demonstrated in the 2015 response to Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, “flocks” of humanitarian drones were able to quickly image large swaths of the devastated areas of Efate, Erromango and Tanna islands, with unprecedented detail. Over 25 gigabytes of imagery data were produced, but no defined standards were adopted for file naming, format, metadata, sharing and publishing.

Our proposed idea submitted for sub-challenge “Understanding the data we have” is called Pacific Drone Imagery Dashboard (PacDID), and to which provide a comprehensive overview of all aerial imagery collected by humanitarian mapping drones during disaster response and preparedness operations. The project will implement a web application for visualizing imagery and define required standards for data transfer and file formats. Decision-makers in the Pacific Region will be able to swiftly gain a seamless, ultra high-resolution view of affected areas. Smaller islands especially will now be able to be efficiently mapped by drones.

PacDID will build upon the existing codebase of the OpenAerialMap (OAM) project, an online catalog of satellite, aircraft and drone imagery published with an open license, for any place in the world. The current Web interface allows users to browse, search, view and download entire image datasets in GIS format. The system relies on highly available cloud storage nodes for making large image files and map services rapidly available to analysts, responders, and humanitarian decision makers. OAM provides a centralized place to find imagery, and saves precious time when compared to individually searching through each image provider different catalogs. PacDID will apply the same concept to imagery collected by humanitarian drone pilots in the Pacific Region and extend it to provide a framework for coordinating all phases of mapping from acquisition to analysis. Users will be able to browse a map and review imagery collected by multiple drone missions in near real-time and seamless manner.

As part of the project objectives, PacDID will also define and implement a series of file format and data transmission standards, which are currently lacking in the drone mapping industry. Finally, the entire system will be built using open source software and open data standards, to ensure maximum scalability and interoperability with other GIS and imagery analysis applications.

Connect @hotosm

Infrastructure-Independent Mobile Communications for Post-Disaster Use in Pacific Nations

Communication platform in regions without cell or Internet reception

Challenge Topic: Communications - Immediate damage assessment product
Team: Paul Gardner-Stephen, Dione Gardner-Stephen, Matthias Hollick, Bernd Freisleben, Jeremy Lakeman, Romana Challans, Andrew Bettison, Matthew Lloyd
Market: Pacific Region

One of the defining characteristics of emergency communications in Pacific Nations is the fragile or non­existent nature of their telecommunications infrastructure. In the event of a severe earthquake or cyclone, it is common for the already limited cellular capacity to be disabled or overwhelmed. A lack of private mobile communications hampers rescue and relief efforts; prevents timely analysis of needs; gives rise to undue stress; and as time passes and desperation mounts, presents opportunities for civil unrest and looting. Therefore, there is great need for a secure, inexpensive peer-­to-­peer mobile phone network technology that can be deployed swiftly and effectively post­disaster.

To this end, the Serval Project (Flinders University, Australia) is developing Serval Mesh, a unique software suite enabling off-­the-­shelf Android phones to perform infrastructure-independent peer-­to-­peer communications. Serval Mesh-­enabled Android smartphones can provide rich, cellular-­like communications in the absence of cellular signal, including secure, infrastructure­-free peer-­to-­peer voice, text and data services. To improve the range of the mesh communications provided, the software has also been integrated with optional, pocket-sized inexpensive radio hardware units (Mesh Extenders). For several years, the New Zealand Red Cross Emergency Telecommunications and Disaster Response Capability Unit has also been in close collaboration with the Serval Project to specifically ensure that Serval Mesh is tailored towards deployment in the Pacific region.

Key capabilities identified by New Zealand Red Cross incorporated into the Serval Mesh software include the ability to broadcast information such as weather forecasts and relief centre locations through communities via mobile phone in the acute phase of a disaster. Serval Mesh can also be used for community self­-reporting and self­-help immediately post-disaster, and for facilitating the information­rich, secure communications that humanitarian relief organisations require. The Serval Mesh software is free to download, and the hardware required to build Serval Mesh networks is inexpensive. Importantly, Mesh Extenders can be pre-­deployed for emergency use, and possess the ability to offer and install Serval Mesh software onto any Android phone within range without any internet or cellular connectivity.

The software is designed to be generally useful for simple everyday communications, so for Pacific islands that do not have cellular coverage, deployment of Serval Mesh would have economic and social benefits.

Our project proposal includes plans to further improve the Serval Mesh software and Mesh Extender hardware. Specifically, we would improve the mesh-routing protocols of the existing Serval Mesh to state­of-­the-­art. Message prioritisation and the end­-user interfaces would also be matured. The technical work to be performed on the Mesh Extenders focuses on finishing the Rhizome protocol over packet radio. We anticipate that these improvements to the technology could be completed in six months. The remainder of our project is a pilot study to be run in the Pacific in partnership with the New Zealand Red Cross, assessing ease of use, utility and trust. We anticipate that access to our technology will enable better disaster preparation, greater community resilience and faster recovery; saving lives and reducing suffering in the event of disaster.

Connect @NZRedCross, @Flinders


Easily-deployed low-cost unmanned aerial systems

Challenge Topic: Communications - Immediate damage assessment product
Team: Jack Hurley, Tim Sigmund, Samuel Cowen
Market: Pacific Region

The Firetail is an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) consisting of a low-cost foam wing and Australian-made and Australian-designed Firetail autopilot and software to enable both the collection and presentation of real-time geo-referenced images and maps for damage assessment. The Firetail is programmed by a push-button interface on the UAS allowing the user to adjust height, pattern, landing direction and arming mode. The Firetail folds into a standard backpack and can be deployed in a matter of minutes.

The ability to harness the power of a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy means we are able to save significant costs of production of the Firetail UAS by not having to deal with the image capture component of the system, instead we rely on the end user to download our free app and connect their phone into the mobile device tray mounted in the Firetail. The advantages in utilising a mobile device is that geo referenced images can be delivered in real time to our Firetail cloud anywhere in the world, another advantage is that users can review stitched together geo-referenced images upon landing.

By implementing our own Australian-manufactured and designed autopilot and software, we have the ability to drive product costs lower and design important features that resonate with first responders. Once the Firetail UAS is airborne, a user can go about their activities until the UAS lands back at the landing point, the flight sequence is fully automated. Utilising real-time image acquisition with more that one Firetail UAS operating over a single disaster area, will revolutionise the way SAR (search and rescue) operations occur.


Pacific Local Supplier Engagement Project

Connecting humanitarian agencies with local suppliers

Challenge Topic: Logistics - Unlocking existing capabilities and distribution mechanisms.
Team: Karen Hill, Cath Harris
Market: Pacific Region

Logistics is always one of the biggest challenges in a disaster response. This is particularly true in the Pacific, where responders are always in a race against time to reach widely-dispersed populations.

The Australian Red Cross proposes a solution that will engage local Pacific suppliers before disasters strike: not only enabling faster procurement and distribution of relief supplies, but providing a vital boost to local economies that often decline in a disaster. As we witnessed in Fiji after Cyclone Winston, a huge disaster quickly uses up pre-positioned stock and the race is on to find, purchase, store and transport more relief supplies.

The Pacific Local Supplier Engagement Project will engage local suppliers and the private sector in humanitarian aid. It aims to stimulate local markets to plan for emergencies, establish business continuity systems and have inherent capacity to support disaster response.

The project can greatly increase the speed and effectiveness of a disaster response by having arrangements in place well before a disaster strikes. This could include: relief kits with culturally-appropriate items that are pre-packed and ready for transport; arrangements for surge warehouse space to store goods coming in; pre-agreed transport services to reach affected areas quickly and cost-effectively; or even local IT surge support or financial services, often needed by humanitarian responders during disaster response.

The project will work equally with local businesses and local humanitarian agencies in the Pacific. It will support the private sector to scale up to meet demand during a disaster relief operation and help humanitarian agencies to better understand and use local market supply chains.

A pilot in three countries will focus on:

  • Sharing information about the local private sector and goods and services capabilities via a web-based platform
  • Fostering pre-disaster partnership agreements between local suppliers, humanitarian agencies and governments in areas such as transport, surge warehouse space, relief items and support services
  • Encouraging business continuity planning with local suppliers so they can be well-positioned to assist disaster relief efforts

Strong pre-disaster partnerships between humanitarian agencies and local suppliers will go a long way towards overcoming the challenge of how to get the right relief supplies to people, as quickly as possible, in high volume and at the lowest possible price.

Red Cross in the Pacific
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has a local presence right across the Pacific, through its National Societies, branches and volunteers. Our people are drawn from the communities they serve and are first on the scene in a crisis.

Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have a specific mandate to support the public authorities in their humanitarian work. They also have strong networks with local governments, businesses, humanitarian actors and communities.

The project will be hosted by selected Pacific National Societies, but will work with all interested humanitarian partners in pilot countries.

Photo Caption:
Fiji Red Cross Society distributing disaster relief kits following TC Winston. These disaster relief kits were locally procured through a pre-disaster agreement with a local supplier.

Connect @RedCrossAU