Fighting Deforestation with Digitalization
The Prey Lang forest supports the livelihoods of over 200,000 Cambodians. It is also home to endangered plant and animal species and valuable timber that is coveted by Illegal loggers. We joined forces with the missionary organization Danmission, a group of local indigenous people and activists called the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) and the University of Copenhagen to produce a simple but powerful mobile and web app to prove illegal activity and land use change in the Prey Lang region.
|Client||Danmission, Prey Lang Community Network & the University of Copenhagen|
|Services||Web & Android App Development|
|Users||400 activists using 36 phones|
|Team||1 QA, 1 Project Manager, 1 Scrum master, multiple developers|
Impact & Results
Delivers Reliable Data
Data collected by the app is used in reports to prove that deforestation is increasing. Examples include the number of chainsaws confiscated, loggers' means of transport and the percentage of land cleared
Raises International Awareness
PLCN received the UNDP-backed 2015 Equator Prize and the 2017 Yale International Society for Tropical Foresters (ISTF) Innovation Prize for using technology to document wildlife and forest crime
Increases Patrol Effectiveness
Hotspots for illegal activity can be identified from anywhere in the world via the web app and targeted by patrols to maximize the impact of resources on the ground
Enables Faster Action
The combination of mobile and worldwide accessible web app database decreases the time elapsed between observation, publication and preventative action taken
Reduces Networking Costs
By connecting a rural community to a global network the app lowers the cost of networking for those campaigning for Prey Lang in and outside of Cambodia
Empowers the Community
The decentralized reporting enables a marginalized community to defy hierarchical social structures and make their voices heard
- Use ICT to replace unreliable handwritten data collection methods
- Increase the amount of visual, audio and numerical data collected
- Decrease the time between data collection and publication
- Make it possible or users to review the data for accuracy
- Produce a mobile app for a user group that may be illiterate or new to smartphone technology
- Ensure uploaded data can be accessed by all users
- Keep data confidential and protect the identity of collector
User- friendly design
The App in Action
PLCN members using the app in the field
It has been a unique experience to be part of a project with an informal local network (Prey Lang Community Network), a research institute (University of Copenhagen) and an ICT company (Web Essentials), all of us working for a common cause.
Country Representative for Cambodia
Why this Project was Special
The Committee Approach
In this joint project Web Essentials went beyond the role of supplier to committee member, actively defining the concept together with the communities to determine the methods of monitoring that were most important to them.
Our project manager Mary spent time with the villagers on patrol in Prey Lang forest. By connecting so closely with the end user from the beginning we could create a product that fully fitted their needs
The Unique User Experience
One of the most important questions was how to design a user friendly mobile app for villagers who may be illiterate or never used a smartphone?
For the data to be useful it needed to be specific. So our challenge was to find a way to allow complex categorization in the simplest way possible.
For each entry, the user is led through a pictorial decision tree to categorize their entry in detail. As our end users were Cambodian, a local designer produced the designs for each visual filter to ensure they were culturally and locally relevant.
Due to limited access to desktop computers in the region data graphs were designed with mobile devices in mind. Multiple rounds of prototype testing and consultation workshops in the field allowed rapid feedback for specific improvements.
The Innovation for Social Impact
This is the first project of its kind in Cambodia, using ICT to empower the community and revolutionize communication methods between themselves and international organizations working on their behalf.
Community members can collect data with the same accuracy as professionals to actively influence the higher-up decision making affecting their livelihoods.
The app promotes local involvement in taking action against issues facing the community. By increasing local ownership and responsibility it supports a bottom up approach that fosters sustainable monitoring independent of donor funding.
For their use of innovative methods to fight forest crime, PLCN were awarded the UNDP-backed 2015 Equator Initiative Prize at COP21 in Paris and the 2017 Yale International Society for Tropical Foresters (ISTF) Innovation Prize. In 2018, the project "It's Our Forest Too" also won the University of Copenhagen Innovation Prize for their open and innovative use of new technology to create social impact in Cambodia.