Sparking action against global poverty using the power of VR filmmaking.

The numbers are horrific. 3 billion people around the globe are living on less than $2.50 per day, including the 1.2 billion living in extreme poverty, existing on less than $1.25 per day. 

Efforts to combat world poverty are met with fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV), affecting both low and middle-income countries. It is estimated that by 2030, FCV countries will be home to 46% of the world’s most extreme poor.

To bring these painful statistics to the forefront of a global audience, The World Bank has released Preventing Conflict, Promoting Peace, a 360 VR film that lets you experience these issues first hand. It is one of the most impactful pieces made by the World Bank and its purpose is to spark action.

Once you put on a VR headset, you are transported to the country of Niger, where violence, terrorism, and armed conflict in neighboring countries are threatening the countries peace and stability. Meanwhile, extreme poverty runs rampant, posing a significant risk to many of the Nigerien people.

You can view the 360 film online in standard 2D and look around using the trackpad or by moving your finger across the screen, but the real impact comes from viewing it in 3D as a webVR experience. 

Image Credit: The World Bank Group

“Fragility, conflict, and violence threaten development progress and can drive communities further into poverty. Niger is a country where 80% of workers are farmers and climate change is severely impacting agriculture. With the 3rd lowest GDP per capita in the world, it’s also bordered by countries in conflict. The World Bank’s community-based investments through the International Development Association (IDA), its fund for low-income countries, is supporting social protection, safety nets, education and agriculture in Niger– preventing conflict by improving the lives of marginalized youth. Through jobs and skills training, along with psychological and social counseling, people like Kaltoum and Ramatou are now improving their own lives and contributing to the development and stability of Niger,” states The World Bank Group in an official statement.

The moment you put on a VR headset, you meet Alassane. He is constantly worrying about the amount of work available in his community. They are usually afforded roughly 3 months of work; the remaining 9 months, however, become incredibly hard due to the lack of work. When there is a conflict in neighboring countries, the impact it can have on his community is significant. It can cut off markets and roads, often preventing work opportunities during those crucial three months of work.

Image Credit: The World Bank Group

Violent conflicts in FCV countries have seen a dramatic spike since the beginning of 2010 with the already fragile landscape becoming more complex. Things such as climate change, rising inequality, demographic change, new technologies, illicit financial flows, and other global trends are adding to those risks, making for an even more unstable environment.

The impact is so extreme that even low and middle-income countries are affected by fragility risks. The World Bank is focused on addressing FCV, emphasizing prevention and acting early. We’re also remaining engaged during active conflict, and in countries going through transitions to peace. Stronger collaboration with humanitarian, development, peace and security partners is critical for delivery in challenging environments, such as in the Bank’s response to famine

“Preventing Conflict, Promoting Peace” looks to address the hardships of these FCV countries where 70.8 million refugees, internally displaced people, and asylum-seekers are looking for relief.

Jimmy Vainstein — VR, AR, and Print Program Manager at The World Bank Group — broke down the project for us in more detail:

“Our Interactive Media Services team supports this mission by employing VR and AR for day to day use in order to help with operational decision making, learning and communication efforts.”

“We believe this is a unique approach to VR, since we work to introduce the use of 360 media as standard work tool in order to support our colleagues when travelling to field projects in any region of the world. The results are very compelling as we can virtually transport viewers to places that are hard to reach and help them understand the conditions that others are living in, status of projects and visualize results.”

How did this project come about? How did your team film the project? How long did it take?

“Sometimes we get asked to why we should use VR instead of traditional video and this project really answers that questions. When we get access to these types of communities and stories, we want to maximize our time during these field visits so we can enhance the viewer’s experience making sure they understand the challenges and value results in the most immersive way possible.”

Image Credit: The World Bank Group

“We partner with Visyon which provided an experienced VR crew for the on-site 360 production ensuring we maximize our efforts in the short time we got to spend at these communities. We were able to capture all in stereo (3D) which now looks great on VR headsets.”

“Overall our WBG VR team handled all aspects of production and project management, focusing on tailoring the storyboard so stories could be presented truthfully and unaltered as we extracted content from on-site interviews directly into the experience. This way the story can go straight from the beneficiaries to the viewers and VR helps amplify that connection and prompts viewers to engage.”

What’s next for the VR film?

“We were able to screen the film during the World Bank Group’s Annual Meetings this past October for a large group of delegates before a related discussions was about to start. This was a done with 180+ headsets synchronized viewing which was an experience on its own. It was touching to see people react to such an engaging film and hopefully get informed about the impact of these development programs on the people we strive to serve.”

“The video will be available on YouTube, Veer, Facebook, Oculus and on VR headsets near you.”

The World Bank consists of 189 member countries with offices in over 130 locations around the world. Their mission is to end global poverty and promote shared prosperity and sustainable development by increasing the income of the poorest 40% of people in every country.

Feature Image Credit: The World Bank Group

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