May 30, 2015 News
One organization is teaching local communities around the world how to build drones and monitor illegal logging and mining.
Imagine you’re an isolated tribal community on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, and the seven million acres of land you depend on is threatened by illegal logging and mining.
How can you protect your land and water? Take to the air—with drones.
That’s what the Wapishiana people of Guyana are trying to do with the help of Digital Democracy, an Oakland, California based organization that helps marginalized communities around the world use technology to defend their rights.
The Wapishiana, who are estimated to number no more than about 6,000, can’t keep tabs on all of the land they have traditionally used for hunting and fishing.
Digital Democracy activists are working with them to build and deploy drones that can monitor and map the terrain, and spot destructive illegal tree-cutting or earth-gouging.
“We didn’t want to just bring in fancy expensive devices and fly them ourselves,” says Digital Democracy founder Emily Jacobi. “We wanted to empower the community, to teach them how to build them and repair them themselves.”
To that end, her colleague, Gregor MacLennan, travelled to Guyana in October, bringing
the supplies to help the tribes’ people build a pair of drones from scratch. The conditions were pretty basic: Their laboratory is a leaf-roofed benab hut, and they’ve had to use jackknives and lollipop sticks as improvised tools.
Their first test flights lasted only seconds before the drones made undignified, albeit entertaining, crash landings. But the next round of tests went much better, and they’re tracking their current progress here.
The project is still in the experimental phase, but the group has put together an impressive 3-D map of the area around one village. To do so, they flew the drone—which was fitted with a GoPro camera—back and forth over the target area and successfully captured about 500 overlapping photos.
Back on the ground, the team used free software to stitch the images together to create the map. Last month, they used pictures taken by drones to help document a swath of illegally logged forest, Jacobi says.
Drones from a number of other organizations are helping to solve a variety of critical problems beyond deforestation. They’re being used to crack down on illegal fishing in Jamaica, shut down rhino poaching in South Africa, and deliver humanitarian aid in disaster zones.
Last spring, the oil-rich United Arab Emirates sponsored a “Drones for Good” competition, awarding $1 million to a Swiss team with a drone that can help rescue disaster victims trapped in confined spaces.
Digital Democracy describes itself as “technology agnostic,” meaning the group will use any kind of tech, not just drones. One of its earliest programs was to help KOFAVIV—a Haitian women’s organization—set up the island nation’s first phone-based emergency response system dedicated to rape and sexual assault.
It enables victims to make free calls from their mobile phones to report assaults. These calls are then logged in a database, and get connected to emergency care including medical, psychological, and legal support.
Jacobi, a 32-year-old from Indiana, founded the group in 2008. She found herself hooked on international issues after travelling to Cuba at 13 with a youth journalism programme.
“I’ve been interested in how to bridge gaps between people ever since,” she says. “We try to help communities on the ground integrate technology into work they’re already doing, whether it’s around human rights or the environment, by connecting them with people here in the U.S. at the cutting edge of technology and research.”
Though it’s still a tiny outfit with an annual budget of around US$250,000, Digital Democracy has gained funding and recognition from the likes of the Clinton Global Initiative, the Knight Foundation, and Google. But if it’s proven anything, it’s that with the right tools, it doesn’t cost much to monitor 7 million acres of land. (www.takepart.com)
Jun 22, 2021Kaieteur News – Head Coach Marcio Maximo yesterday named a 23-man squad for the Golden Jaguars’ Concacaf Gold Cup preliminary round qualification match against Guatemala. The Golden Jaguars...
Jun 22, 2021
Jun 22, 2021
Jun 22, 2021
Jun 22, 2021
Jun 21, 2021
Kaieteur News – One of the more principled, morally focused Black voices in Guyanese politics is UK based activist,... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders More commonality was shown by CARICOM countries in a vote on Tuesday June 15 at the Organisation of... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]