#LAUNCHLegends: Introducing emerging technologies in the Pacific

Last week, the first of two LAUNCH Legends pilot programs began in Tonga. Our Special Island is being piloted in 11 schools, with the aim to reach more schools in future should the initial pilot prove successful. In May, the second pilot program – ‘Beyond the Stars’ will launch in Fiji. These ideas emerged from a VR/AR Hack held at the iXc in 2016.

Rachael Imam (Communications Associate at program partner SecondMuse) explains how the ideas have evolved from ideas in 2016 to pilot programs today.

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Like so many innovative ventures, the Legends project started with a question: How can emerging storytelling technologies be used to strengthen health and nutrition outcomes in the Pacific?

To lead the response to this ambitious question, the innovationXchange (iXc) invited more than 40 food and nutrition experts, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) practitioners, and marketers to come together in Canberra for a VR/AR Hack event in 2016. The iXc is located within Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

The iXc engaged the support of the LAUNCH platform to deliver this event. The hackathon was essentially an exchange of ideas – a place where creative thinkers in the areas of health and technology could meet and collaborate towards bold, new solutions.

The day saw the emergence of so many inventive ideas that the iXc and LAUNCH decided to create a project to bring some of them to life in the Pacific. This is how Legends was born.

As the two Legends innovators prepare to implement their pilot programs in Fiji and Tonga in the next few months, it’s amazing to think how far they have come. Tash Tan (Co-Founder of creative technology agency S1T2), and Wil Monte (Founder, Creative Director of game-based education application developer Millipede) were selected from a pool of impressive proposals, each pushing the boundaries of both storytelling and technology to address the issues of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Pacific Islands.

It must be said, introducing virtual reality technologies and game-based learning into Pacific schools is not an easy thing to do, and the success of Legends was always going to depend on the involvement of Pacific communities in the design and implementation of these programs. With this in mind, the first phase of the Legends project has been all about learning, adapting, forming partnerships, and collaboration in action.

As an essential first step in understanding the context and environment in which they would operate, the innovators and the teams from LAUNCH and the iXc travelled to Tonga and Fiji to meet with government representatives, villagers, village chiefs, teachers and students – the very people who are facing, and actively addressing the problems of malnutrition and NCDs in their own lives and communities. This was invaluable, from both a project perspective and a personal one, and they revealed things that just would not have been visible from an office desk in Australia.

The teams learnt about the practical and ideological factors affecting decisions around diet, the increasing uptake of, and interest, in mobile technology, and the overwhelming influence of imported foods on local markets. They were able to gain first-hand experience of the power and the beauty of Pacific storytelling, the importance it holds in Fijian and Tongan traditions, and the role that it plays in passing down teachings from generation to generation. 

From this experience, Tash, Wil and the Legends team as a whole have been able to form truly collaborative partnerships that have seen their programs through from the initial design phase, to the upcoming implementation of the pilots, and hopefully, to their widespread delivery in schools across the region.  

Today, the two Legends programs, Beyond the Stars in Fiji, and Our Special Island in Tonga, look very different to what Tash and Wil first proposed way back in 2016. Beyond the Stars is an education and storytelling pilot program designed for Fijian children in their fourth year of school.

Inspired by the stories of local Fijians, Beyond the Stars takes students on a journey to reclaim the sacred knowledge of an ancient Pacific civilisation that holds the key to restoring health and prosperity in the land.

Our Special Island (Motu Ta’e’iloa in Tongan) is an educational pilot program designed for Tongan children in their first or second year of school. The main resource is a fun tablet application that helps children to learn about traditional foods and food preparation as they play different games.

For more than a year, these programs have been dissected, workshopped, refined and rewritten, in collaboration with Fijian and Tongan communities, government ministries, health and nutrition experts, monitoring and evaluation specialists, and Pacific storytellers.

This is due, in large part, to the innovators’ willingness to learn and adjust their approach to match the context and the realities that surround them. Most importantly, however, it is a result of an enthusiastic and dedicated group of partners who have shared their time, energy, and expertise in order to make the Legends programs what they are today.

It is incredibly exciting to work alongside them as the launch phase begins in Fiji and Tonga, where we will combine efforts across nations, and across disciplines and industries, to contribute to healthier, longer lives among Pacific children.

Visit the Legends website to find out more about the two pilot programs.


About the author:

Rachael Imam is a Communications Associate at the Network-Centred Innovation Company SecondMuse. Her work in the advertising industry, combined with her study of development and experiences creating multimedia content abroad have exposed Rachael to a range of unique perspectives and ideas.

She endeavours to share stories of progress from around the world in a way that is informative, accessible and entertaining. SecondMuse is a close collaborator of the innovationXchange, working on projects such as, LAUNCH Legends, the Pacific Humanitarian Challenge, the Blue Economy Challenge, and Frontier Innovators.

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