Colombia’s 2015 floods affected some 18,000 people. They destroyed homes and bridges, caused the suspension of water and sanitation services, and killed at least 83 people. The loss of life and millions of dollars in damage have re-emphasized the importance of confronting the effects of climate change in Colombia.

DAI is working with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, its on-campus technology and innovation hub, Centro Ático, and the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) in Cali to harness the entrepreneurial power of young Colombians to tackle climate change with the aid of NASA satellite data, mobile phones, and their own ingenuity.

This month, DAI hosted Colombia’s first Forum for Technology for Climate Change at Centro Ático, bringing together more than 50 participants who work on climate change and environmental management issues to discuss the challenge and how the upcoming NASA Space Apps Challenge can create pilot solutions. DAI and Javeriana are preparing to host The Space Apps Challenge at Centro Ático with 120 young Colombian innovators from April 22 to 24.

Forum for Technology for Climate Change in Colombia

foro 2 small.JPG Opening panel

The Forum’s opening panel featured María Carolina Hoyos Turbay, Vice Minister for Technology, Information, and Communications; Father Luis Alfonso Castellanos Ramírez, Vice Rector at the Pontifica Universidad Javeriana; and Camila Rodriguez Vargas, Advisor at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability. The speakers discussed the importance of new technologies for decision-making related to climate change, and underscored the Colombian government’s active role in empowering citizens with technology and data.

DAI’s Latin America Regional Director for ICT, Alejandro Solis, presented the CoffeeCloud app, designed to centralize and disseminate information and connect decision makers around daily and seasonal forecasting for coffee crops. The app also reports outbreaks of diseases such as coffee rust, and has a geospatial platform for consultation on cases of infestation and a two-way communication feature with Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture.

ale small.JPG Alejandro Solis presents CoffeeCloud

DAI CEO Dr. James Boomgard and Board Member Maria Otero attended the event. “DAI is committed to supporting Colombia in its efforts to mitigate climate change and supporting the Space Apps Challenge here is a manifestation of that,” remarked Otero.

Key Takeaways

Noemi Danao-Schroeder, DAI’s Director of Governance for Latin America, moderated the event. [email protected] interviewed Danao-Schroeder on the key takeaways.

foro small.JPG Opening panel, Noemi Danao-Schroeder is second from left

Q. What was the purpose of this event?

Danao-Schroeder: To highlight technologies and innovations that ministries and NGOs can use immediately to support climate change decision-making. While we were there to bring together these thought leaders, we also wanted to energize people around the NASA Space Apps Challenge. We wanted to provide real-life examples of what could be generated in the Space Apps Challenge.

Q. What is the NASA Space Apps Challenge?

Danao-Schroeder: The annual NASA Space Apps Challenge is a 30-hour blitz of coding and product development—otherwise known as a hackathon—that occurs simultaneously around the globe, using NASA data and imagery to develop new solutions to pressing global challenges identified by NASA. During the hackathon, NASA satellite imagery, data sets, and tools are made available to students and other participants to create local solutions.

Q. How will this event fuel the Space Apps Challenge?

Danao-Schroeder: One of the immediate benefits was to showcase actual outputs from previous iterations of the NASA Space Apps Challenge. Alejandro Solis presented CoffeeCloud, a mobile app that connects farmers with coffee associations and extentionists to provide weather information, good agricultural practices, and reference info on pests such as coffee rust. The CoffeeCloud was a finalist for the 2015 NASA Space Apps Challenge in Costa Rica, and was supported by the USAID Regional Climate Change Program in Central America, implemented by CATIE and DAI. We were able to take an abstract idea—such as designing a tech tool for farmers dealing with the environmental impacts on coffee plants—and show people a real-life example. It was great to get beyond the abstract to actual solutions.

Q. What other technologies were presented?

Danao-Schroeder: Tito Muto from Conservación International presented TREMARCTOS COLOMBIA, a free, online tool that provides preliminary vulnerability screening and recommendations. Luis Alfonso Ortega, Coordinator for Protected Areas and Climate Change at Fundación Ecohabitats, presented a toolkit to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate changes in rural areas, based on the latest technology and best practices tailored to local areas. The tool is called TeSAC - Los Territorios Sostenibles Adaptados al Clima.

Q. What were the most important takeaways?

Danao-Schroeder: For me, the biggest takeaways are that ministries of the Colombian government are already developing concrete apps and tools to address specific concerns around climate change and vulnerability. They are clearly committed to using tech where it makes sense to combat climate change. Not only that, but they are committed to developing access points for the public. Hosting the NASA Space Apps Challenge is one way to further these goals and generate enthusiasm from students, mentors, and judges and to crowd in new participants to create apps and tools that pull from international and national data sets simultaneously.

Full Video of Forum

Embedded video (above) playlist contents:

  • Forum for Technology for Climate Change
  • Comments by Maria Otero, Board Member, DAI
  • Comments by Alejandro Solis, LAC Regional ICT Director, DAI
  • Comments by Luis Ortega, Coordinator for Protected Areas and Climate Change at Fundación Ecohabitats, CATIE
  • Comments by Tito Muto, IT Coordinator, Conservación International
  • Closing by Alejandro Solis, LAC Regional ICT Director, DAI

Have you seen an app that does a great job of fighting climate change? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet to @DAIGlobal with the #DigitalDAI hashtag.