The amount of dollars invested in purpose-driven European tech companies this year (Source: Atomico 2020). Investment in purpose driven enterprises has reached a record stand. The COVID-19 crisis is generating momentum for social and environmental change across the globe and we must seize this opportunity, together. Innovation, creativity, and collective work are elements needed to unfold technology’s potential to transform the world into a sustainable and fairer place. Today, technology is a great ally to achieve common good. Below, we share some of the most impactful new technologies and ideas that are already changing the world
Technology and the environment
Modernizing forest carbon markets
According to figures from Global Forest Watch, deforestation totals around 10 million hectares each year -equivalent to 27 soccer fields per minute. On top of the overwhelming loss of primary forest, the monitoring of reforestation projects turn out to be inefficient due to limited data. Pachama is an Argentinian tech start-up that is aware of this issue; thus, it aims to optimize the impact monitoring of forest restoration with high-tech. Using satellite imaging, remote-sensing technologies, and machine learning Pachama can measure carbon captured on forests in less time than conventional methods do. Through LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, users can get a 3D-representation of the forest and an online platform allows them to verify the sequestered carbon. Indigenous communities, farmers, and overall local forest managers also benefit from this technology: the verification process to get carbon certificates shortens and becomes less costly, while the Pachamas’s marketplace platform enables them to find buyers without the need of a middleman. Learn more about reforestation here.
Pollinator risk assessment
Biodiversity loss is one of the most pressing challenges of our times. Out of estimated 8 million species 1 million are at risk of extinction (Source: UN). The global decline of biodiversity endangers the environment, food security, and the overall wellbeing of animals and humans. The German start-up apic.ai is using innovative technologies to fill the knowledge gap that prevents conservation efforts to be efficient. Honey bees are bio-indicators of how healthy the surrounding flora and fauna near a hive is. The team of apic.ai uses visual monitoring systems and artificial neural networks (i.e. machine learning) to observe motion patterns of these pollinators, as well as the pollen entries. Negative environmental consequences of decisions in agriculture or urban development can be transparently assessed using the collected data.
Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, destroying marine wildlife and contributing to global warming (Source: UN). The Dutch startup The Ocean Cleanup created two devices to clean both, oceans and rivers. The ocean cleaning equipment uses algorithms to identify the optimal deployment location, after which the system operates autonomously. Real-time telemetry helps to assess the course and performance. The river cleaning system is a solar-powered floating device, called The Interceptor, that can extract up to 50.000 kilograms of waste from a river every day. Once the 50m3 capacity of the dumpster is reached, the system automatically notify this to local operators. Read our latest article on ocean plastic pollution and get to know more innovative solutions.
Technology in healthcare
Cryptography for virus tracking apps
In the fight against the COVID-19, technology has helped countries to track and interrupt chains of infections using one of the most common devices in today’s society, smartphones. The Corona-Warn-App was one of the measurements implemented by the German government to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In Germany, about 65 million people use a smartphone (Source: Newzoo), meaning that more than 77% of the population are potential app users. The app is based on technologies with a decentralized approach, which allows for greater transparency and protection of personal data. Smartphones with the app exchange encrypted random codes with each other via Bluetooth and store them locally. If a user has been infected they can anonymously share their codes with other users that will be notified if they were in contact, for how long, and how far apart they were. The app does not disclose names nor location. As of December, 24 million users have downloaded the app and 55% of people who have tested positive, have decided to share their results (Source: Robert Koch Institut).
Technology for education
Education technology experienced a rapid growth even before the pandemic. In 2019 global edtech investment amounted to 18.6 billion dollars and it was projected that the online education market would reach 350 billion dollar by 2025 (Source: UNICEF). Since COVID-19 the usage of online learning softwares and video conferencing tools skyrocketed. Flexibility, efficiency, and affordability are some of the advantages that online students have. Platforms such as OpenClassrooms and Coursera have democratized education by allowing everyone with an electronic device and internet access to learn remotely, and sometimes for free.
Due to the pandemic 83% of countries have turned to online platforms; nevertheless, 3 out of 4 students cannot benefit from remote learning policies because they live in rural areas (Source: UNICEF). Mozambican tech startup, Kamaleon, promotes digital literacy and inclusion in remote rural areas through a platform called “Community Tablet”. The communal shared learning experience is possible by integrating the solar-powered tablet onto a truck. So far, the project has reached over 40 rural schools and 11.000 students.
In Southeast Asia, another enterprise tackles the lack of internet access by firstly enabling households to get electricity. SolarHome is the pioneer in Pay-As-You-Go solar systems for households living outside the electric grid, which has already served over 35,000 homes across Myanmar. They make solar energy affordable by offering “rent-to-own” plans of energy service subscription. Households can reduce their carbon footprint as the clean energy system eliminates 140 kg of CO2 per year. Worldwide, 840 million people do not have access to electricity (Source: World Bank); hence, the growth of the off-grid solar industry is crucial to achieving sustainable development.
We can still accomplish more
To accelerate change toward a sustainable, just, and inclusive society, we must join forces and create synergies. Technology offers tools that allow us to work together on common causes, it is a facilitator of change. Hence, at NooS we offer digital solutions to amplify the positive impact of social and environmental projects, bringing together different actors on the same platform. We know that innovation can transform the world and to achieve this we work to find the most effective path, capable of generating the greatest social impact at the largest possible scale.
Photography credit – Cover: Rodolfo Clix via Pexels