Eyes up for the future of tech-based impact in Africa

Press Office: Zayed Sustainability Prize

By Helena Samsioe, CEO and Founder of GLOBHE

Many see the developmental challenges across Africa simply as hurdles to overcome, leading to greater economic prosperity and advanced communities. In fact, adopting new technologies and fresh, innovative ideas to solving some of the most complex issues is a huge opportunity to leapfrog the status quo.

Over recent years, one clear example of this is Africa’s burgeoning drone industry. With slow development of roads and on-the-ground infrastructure, bypassing traditional methods of delivering impact on the ground in numerous sectors should be the preferred solution. Taking to the skies is one such solution. Of course, we have to bear in mind the issues of regulation and management, alongside government support and endorsement to establish a sustainable drone industry. But as we edge closer to the new normal of disrupted global lives, I’m excited about what impact can be delivered by harnessing the power of technology for a brighter future.

As Cyclone Chalane swept across south-east Africa in December 2020, global development agencies scattered their resources to find communities most in need. This task is long and arduous. As with any natural disaster, one of the historical challenges to assessing impact and priorities for aid is purely logistical.

That’s why we created GLOBHE and our unique web app, Crowddroning by GLOBHE, tapping into 3,817 drones in 83 countries and making it possible to provide crucial insights from drone data on demand.

The use of drones in solving complex sustainability and health challenges across the globe, but particularly in Africa, is ever evolving. From natural disasters to malaria outbreak control, flood danger zones to crop health assessment, GLOBHE commissions its team of freelance drone pilots to map areas with high quality real-time images usually twice the resolution of satellites that are too often outdated. Since our inception, we have gathered over 2.3 million images.

In January, we conducted a Crowddroning mapathon in Malawi to quickly identify impact on communities of Cyclone Chalane. The data, gathered by 12 local freelance drone pilots, was made public and shared on a HDX – a global data exchange portal to help guide humanitarian relief efforts. Since then, we’ve had over 150 downloads of our data by organisations across the globe.

Primarily we work on a commission basis, from clients who focus on solving a range of challenges in health, water, environment, and infrastructure. With pilots in 22 countries in Africa alone, we have extensive breadth and the ability to deliver high-quality data for download within days of a commission as well as offering live streamed data. These pilots have signed up to our platform to offer their skills and expertise to our organisation, so this ensures we also run a community-based model, often in rural areas, rather than inserting foreign investors into the target markets.

In 2018, our solution impacted 100,000 people, in collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organisations, in addressing cholera and malaria epidemics in Malawi and Lake Victoria. The quality of images captured by drones allow us to map areas for potential malaria outbreaks – this includes factors such as still warm water, houses and settlements, humidity – as well as mapping the density of nearby communities. The same applies for recorded cholera outbreaks and the potential impact to any given number of houses in the area and this type of information is sourced much faster from the air.

This exercise, which clearly demonstrated the impact and potential of drone technology in addressing health related challenges in Africa, was one of the highlights that led to us being awarded $600,000 in the Health category from the Zayed Sustainability Prize in 2020. This award acknowledges and rewards global pioneers and innovators who are committed to accelerating impactful sustainable solutions. This was a huge investment in our belief that technology can leapfrog the status quo of delivering impact to vulnerable communities.

Since then, 210 new drone pilots have signed up to Crowddrroning by GLOBHE where pilots have gained access to paid freelance flying missions in Malawi, Tanzania, Fiji, Philippines and Sweden, with more to come. We are working hard and fast to increase the impact and reach of our solution across the globe – with greater plans to create a marketplace for the data collected, thus ensuring we deliver on the opportunities of Big Data in a new normal world.

The Zayed Sustainability Prize is now open to innovators across Africa and internationally, spanning small to medium enterprises (SMEs), non-profit organisations, and high schools, with sustainable solutions across Health, Food, Energy and Water. Enter today by visiting www.zayedsustainabilityprize.com – the deadline is 6th May 2021. SME’s and non-profits must enter an existing sustainability solution in one of the Health, Food, Energy, or Water categories. The Global High Schools category invites student-led projects or proposals, based on one or more of the four aforementioned sustainability sectors.

For more information, please visit www.ZayedSustainabilityPrize.com or visit our social media platforms on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube.