Foreign Policy Blogs

Show Me The Money. Yeah, a Picture's OK.

Cameras: Now with built in tracking!

Cameras: Now with built in tracking!

Cool idea to handle some of the problems with verifying that funds are being spent appropriately in a war zone written up by Wired:

If an area is too dicey to send in expats, Mercy Corps sends in Afghan staff with GPS cameras — either a Nikon point-and-shoot, or a Garmin handheld GPS with built-in camera — to verify that the projects are actually being undertaken in the right places, so they can pay wages. The data is then uploaded to a Google Earth–style program, so Mercy Corps — which implements USAID projects — can track projects and their participants.

Doesn’t mean that the funds are being used well – but at least you can tell if the school is being built at all.

A friend managing school-building projects in Afghanistan’s hinterlands was regaling me with crazy stories of all the phantom schools bought, paid for, and highly documented on paper – that never existed.

Throw in a bit of mapping mashups for fun, and it’s a really cute idea.

This concept has broad implications. In Congressional discussions of overseas carbon offset purchases there are a lot of great win-win scenarios where US polluters pay, say, Ethiopia to reforest barren areas – or not cut down trees that are otherwise slated to be chopped. Monthly photos of targeted regions, tagged with reliable GPS coordinates, could really help with monitoring such diffuse projects.

By the way, I can’t wait until my gloves come with built in GPS. Maybe then Becca will get me a pair I can keep for more that a couple of weeks.