To maintain international exchange and collaboration under the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark has actively explored the possibility of applying internet technology for online-exchange when face-to-face communication is not possible.
In the first quarter of 2020, Hong Kong UGGp launched “Let’s Do It”, an online exchange meeting, which engages members of the Asia Pacific Geoparks Network (APGN) and invited speakers from other geoparks/networks. Exchange session of about 1 hour was held every month to share news, ideas and work progress, including approaches to combating the pandemic, and how to conduct geopark operations during this period. There were some challenges to make the online exchange platform work. For examples, to find out a suitable web-conferencing software, unreliable network stability, and slow data transmission speed affecting picture and voice quality. The multiple languages involved was also a hurdle.
To overcome these hurdles, the following measures were adopted:
- As a first step, Hong Kong UGGp started a group on mobile communication media software (a smartphone messaging app, e.g. LINE). APGN geoparks interested in online exchange sessions were invited to join the group.
- Prior to every meeting, we discussed the meeting date and time, discussion topics and detailed arrangements to identify the best options.
- During the meeting, volunteers from the various geoparks were hand-on to provide simultaneous voice interpretation or translation of text-based exchanges in the chat room.
- After each meeting, valuable reference materials were uploaded to a cloud drive for sharing, and one-on-one chats were arranged to provide further details.
Now the meeting is conducted regularly using Zoom, many APGN geoparks have participated with great enthusiasm. To date, we have held more than 10 online exchange meetings.
On 21 Jan 2021, around 40 participants from all eight countries within APGN attended the “Let’s Do It” zoom meeting. Tuscan Mining Geopark was invited to share the situations in Italy and Prof. Zhang Jianping introduced the UNESCO Global Geoparks Council and GGN Executive Board. The APGN Coordinator Prof. JIN Xiaochi, remarked that, ‘Let’s Do It’ plays a very active role in networking and sharing good practices amongst APGN members.
On another note, the APGN social media (i.e. Twitter and Instagram) has remained active since its launch in late 2019. During the pandemic, in particular, it has been an effective channel for publicising the latest geopark news and played a positive role in promoting exchanges among APGN members.
The experience of maintaining networking activities during the pandemic through social media and online meeting not only benefit us during this difficult period, but also strengthen our collaboration and solidarity which will continue in the future.