[Idea] Brainstorming for Apps for Climate

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Apps for Climate

Today I went to a lunch meeting with the Apps 4 Climate folks. It is basically a challenge for developers to make apps using the vast archive of open data at the Bank.

It was great to see such a motivated team behind the project. We talkedabout the challenge itself, requirements and timelines. It was very appropriate for Habiba Gitay to point out the importance of rightful sourcing attribution (Most times the Bank acts as a portal that archives someone else data). Alex Barth also gave a talk about building maps with World Bank Climate Data (slides here).

The main part of the event were focus groups to brainstorm about ideas and about the potential of such competition. Here are 9+ ideas with mock names to motivate your brain:

  1. "Gap Finder". The Bank has a massive amount of data. But, do we know all we ought to address climate change rightfully? Where are the gaps? There are obviously things we don´t know we don´t know, but there are many we know we don´t know.  The app would poinpoint/rank/visualize these and perhaps try to fill this gaps with proxy data, crowdourcing or advocate to contact those responsible to fill them.
  2. "So What". This is an app thinking from the point of view of average citizen, not researchers, govs or NGOs. What should the average person know about climate change. In general and in particular around a topic or a place.
  3. "Climate Birds". The idea here is to leverage highly motivated specialized groups of people. For example bird watchers. There is a huge outcome if we can find a way to articulate their motivation towards addressing climate change. To increase awareness, to crowdsource data gathering or data verification... Say an app to report location and volume of migratory species, or an app to monitor nesting behavior and match or correlate them to available relevant data.
  4. "Climate UI". An app to weed out non relevant data for your purposes. There are thousands of indicators, countries, years, models, options, documents, ... Figuring out which ones are relevant for you, and gathering them is in itself a non-trivial task. An app to help select and provide guidance in this regard would be certainly helpful. Something like VirGo or Simbad in Astronomy, but for climate.
  5. "Climate liberator". With the increasing number of dataset and work being done in the climate arena, it becomes increasingly difficult to decide how to publish your data, with which criteria, where to host it, ... This app would guide the whole process and help you create the documentation, as well as streamlining the pipeline to make it available for every one.
  6. "What if Calculator". What if I were to reduce my energy consumption by 40%? What if I use the bike instead of the taxi? What if I use reusable bags instead of plastic ones? Some of this calculations are harder than others, but a qualitative answer is in itself valuable and might also connect to relevant data available in the Bank. Now, what if 10% of the population wold do the same? What would the impact be then?
  7. "Climate Changes You". Most of the apps and effort is put into working the available data, which is mostly national level. However, solutions to climate change are generally local, and we as individuals can help face the challenges. This app would leverage the potential of everyone to fact check and gather data. Just like Wikipedia allows everyone to collaborate in articles, just like OpenStreetMap allows everyone to collaborate maps, this app would allow anyone to collaborate in the data effort for climate. The trick here would be to ensure/address data quality, perhaps with a reputation system on the data and the collaborator.
  8. "Climate Cloud". As data becomes more complex, more used, and more needed, properly hosting and serving the resources becomes a challenge. This app would bring climate data to a dedicated cloud service,with centralized resources to streamline comparisons, calculations, push updates, request explanations, ...
  9. "Climate fact sheet generator" The Bank has a very nice online API and other resources to access almost any piece of data any time. However, sometimes you need to have offline material for moments and places where there is no resources or time to go online. This app would help create quick fact sheets with the relevant data you choose, for your set of countries, region or the whole world. This app would use the available API and an automated preparation tool like LaTeX or ImageMagick to create quick beautiful handbooks with a few clicks (and a printer, or perhaps a cloud printer) [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="¿ Rails+api.worldbank.org+LaTeX ?"]The little data books, from the World Bank.[/caption]
  10. What other ideas can you come up with? I´ll be glad to include them here*.

*I am tempted to include our Index at the Global Adaptation Institute. Unfortunately, the Index (and its website) is not eligible for this competition, because part of our team at the Institute is related to the Bank. However, the Index is open source and open data (using  also World Bank climate data) , and I would be more than glad to guide anyone to build something on top of it, and present it to the competition. I would actually love that. Including building from our node.js site (source code available on request)

As you can see, and it was specifically mentioned on the meeting, apps can be of any nature, as long as they fulfill the rules. Roughly, I can see a few (interlinked) types of apps:

  • Visualization or mapping. Quite powerful as message carriers. There are many amazing tools to make your life easy, like TileMill
  • Tools for technical users: To make your life easy to select, download, upload or mine the data.
  • Awareness/Advocacy for the general audience: Quizzes, Games, Calculators.
  • Mashups: Combine several sources to discover new outcomes.
  • Crowdsourcing: Leverage the audience to provide input, not only to consume the output.
  • Portals: Index and categorize available data or projects.

Good luck!

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