April 23, 2009

How mobile is empowering consumers

Sea turtle - Photo courtesy Blue Ocean Institute

Photo courtesy Blue Ocean Institute

Katrin VerclasSensing is just one way in which mobiles are used in environmental protection. Another promising area is wildlife protection in sensitive areas where humans and animals collide, often to the detriment of protected animals.

In the Laikipia District in Kenya, the University of Cambridge conducted a project using mobile phones to protect and manage Kenya’s second largest elephant population, and the ecosystem they inhabit.  The goal was to alleviate human-elephant conflict between local farmers and the protected elephants.  The project used mobile phones for early warning of elephants approaching farmland by using ‘push-to-talk’ technologies, and GPS/GSM collars for the elephants, allowing wildlife personnel to intervene before elephant became a danger to farmers and vice versa.

Mobiles are especially useful for gathering and acting on just-in-time information. Imagine this scenario: A woman in Johannesburg, South Africa, stands at the fish counter in her local supermarket and texts the name of a fish to a phone number. Within seconds, she receives back information via a short text message informing her whether the fish is legally and environmentally harvested and advising her whether “to tuck in, think twice or avoid completely.”

The consumer is using FishMS, a text service of Sassi (The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) and the World Wildlife Fund to help consumers make informed choices about the seafood they purchase.

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