By Samar Hasan, Co-Founder Sohni Dharti Climateers
Last year at the COP24 (2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Katowice, Poland, Pakistan was elected as the Vice President and the Rapporteur of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. One of the outcomes of this conference has been the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project, under which individuals and organizations from all over the country are planting trees. As one of the Co-Founders of Sohni Dharti Climateers, a digital awareness, advocacy and action initiative to counter climate change under my social enterprise, Epiphany, this got me thinking. How amazing would it be if we could determine where tree plantations were most needed and, based on this, launch advocacy campaigns in those locations?
Imagine my happy surprise when Startup Guide introduced me to the World Bank’s Digital Lab. The lab houses two data platforms, AppsolutelyDigital and Data4Pakistan, which present public available data sources with a spatial lens and a quick overview of Pakistan at the district level. Out of the various interactive maps of Pakistan across sectors, one caught my eye – a visualization of Landsat Vegetation Analysis. Using this particular map, we first saw at the country level where vegetation is minimal. Then, we zoomed in to district level, city level, street level even and could plan our tree plantation drives accordingly. While at an individual level, this is indeed useful, it opens up a world of possibilities at a macro level too, when designing a major tree plantation initiative, we can earmark which locations to target first simply by interacting with this map. And I expect we could easily monitor our progress too using the same map a few years later. Technical teams can also advise on native trees as well as connect to relevant forest departments within the government.
Another aspect that I really appreciated about the Digital Lab is that it has collated various data sets in one place, organized under different categories. For most of the people working in the development sector, trying to solve multiple environmental, social and economic problems, often the biggest issue is a lack of data. Usually, finding the right research material takes a long time and even after hours of examining different data sources, you may never find what you were looking for. With the Digital Lab, the research process has been simplified. So, for instance, if you were planning a long-term intervention to alleviate poverty in Sindh through education, you could compare the maps showing Poverty Intensity, Number of Poor, % of Poor, crosschecking it with the Multidimensional Poverty Index, and Human Development Index – to identify which districts to target.
Ultimately, I think this platform has great applicability for entrepreneurs as well, since they too look for data when planning their businesses. As I await the next batch of impact entrepreneurs to join Epiphany’s accelerator program, Epiphany Lab, I am excited that this resource is available for them to find the data to back their planned and existing interventions.