Leveraging technology to protect the environment

January 23, 2017 03:15 PM
Leveraging technology to protect the environment logo
Apurva Bhandari is a Founder and Chairman at SankalpTaru Foundation. Apurva holds an MBA in Oil and Gas Management and started his career working with Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. He has also worked with few IT companies and was on a consulting assignment in the US before he decided to return to India and founded SankalpTaru. Apurva is well traveled across India and is passionate about giving back to the society and to Mother Nature. He looks after rural operations, strategy and corporate relationship management at SankalpTaru. Apurva can be reached at: +91 789 310 5757 and apurva@sankalptaru.org

What motivated you to work in this space?

The rate and magnitude of predicted climate change and global warming require our urgent attention to mitigate emissions or sequester carbon on a substantial scale in order to combat environmental degradation. To address such issues, planting trees is one of the easiest and most sustainable ways to positively affect the environment; wherein we needed a model where trees are not only planted but survived.

How is your organization leveraging technology?

SankalpTaru has developed an online portal and a mobile application to enable individuals and corporates to plant and track trees online. Our unique mobile application module enables rural ground operations team to capture photos and GPS coordinates of the planted trees and share instantly with the respective planters to ensure transparency and visibility within the system.

How has your organization’s use of mobile technologies evolved?

SankalpTaru’s G1 android based mobile application is an innovative designed interactive program which imparts a convenient platform for planters and patrons to plant trees from anywhere in the world. Through GPS technology integrated with Google Earth and Maps, the same application is used by our on-ground coordinators for geo-tagging of trees.

Is there scope for greater use of mobile technologies for social good? If so, in what ways?

As most of the content is being accessed on the mobile platform, hence there is a need for mobile based applications. Mobile technology provides an interactive and engaging platform to bridge the social gap and enable users to access the information and its deployment in everyday work. Rather than developing a new technology, we should make use of existing technologies(GPS, IVR) for better monitoring and tracking.

How important is it for NGOs to create apps?

To catch up with the latest trends as most of the users are moving towards technology, NGO’s needs to build transparency and visibility. The user- friendly interface makes it easier for someone to report the problem thus decreasing the turn-around-time to solve the problem. It helps to facilitate better understanding, mobilizes awareness and increases engagement.

Which user requirements did you aim to serve via your app?

We have empowered people by making tree plantation convenient by doing it remotely from our mobile phones. Our planters across the world can contribute to Mother Nature by planting trees at any of our project locations and track their trees on GPS maps. Not only we have used technology to bring convenience to contributors but it also helps our on-ground team to geo-tag trees and provide regular post plantation updates.

What challenges did you face while creating your app and how did you overcome them?

The development of an efficient mobile application is the major challenge for the success of the application running in an offline mode. Availability of mobile network was one of the key challenges to overcome. After undergoing various addition to its features our mobile application works in the remote villages without any mobile network and is also helpful in carrying out tree census, plantation audits, surveys and route planning of operations crew.It works miraculously well in a 2G network and even in an offline mode (without mobile network).

What advice do you have for NGOs planning to create an app?

Instead of inventing and integrating something new, one should identify and make use of existing technology (like GPS, plug-ins) for better implementation and monitoring ensuring engagement of masses.

What factors did you consider while planning to build the app?

SankalpTaru G1 Application is a platform for people who are very interested in contributing to the society. Apart from the planters, this application is being used by the ground users (rural farmers) who click photos of planted trees and geotag them. Therefore, our main idea was to develop an application which is easy to understand and allows us to bridge the gap between technology and the cause.

In what ways, has publishing the app helped your organization?

By developing a user-friendly mobile application, it gives an opportunity to spread awareness among masses. Considering tree plantation as the most sustainable approach to maintain biodiversity and combat pollution, it has helped to engage communities in a cause.

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