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Winner Agribox brings training and essential info on agriculture to Malian living rooms. © Agribox
Giving farmers access to essential information, leveraging citizen science in the fight against schistosomiasis and enabling a more rapid response to natural disasters. These are the laureates of the 2022 Digital for Development (D4D) awards.
On 24 November 2022, the D4D awards were presented once more, for the 4th time since 2016. Their aim is to reward initiatives that employ digital technologies to provide leverage for development. These innovative solutions must contribute towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
D4D is organised by the AfricaMuseum with support from the Belgian Development Cooperation. Each time, a total of 3 prizes are presented in 3 categories: iStandOut (the success story), iStartUp (innovative idea/start-up) and iChoose (audience award).
In 2022, the awards went to:
iStandOut: Providing small farmers in Mali with accessible, digital tools
Most farmers in Mali still operate on a small scale and have little access to digital services. Internet access is limited and even smartphones are not yet widespread. This leaves them without important information such as market prices and means that they are unable to access training that will allow them to adapt their techniques in response to climate disruption. They also have a harder time promoting their wares and contacting merchants.
So the start-up AgriBox developed an application for smartphones that works equally well on a television. After all, television sets are widely in use in remote Malian villages. With the help of a decoder, farmers can watch all kinds of training – via audio and video – on their TVs and can market their wares.
The kit offered also includes sensors that allow farmers to measure the soil moisture, temperature or acidity of their operation and automate their irrigation. They also get access to market prices and weather reports and a major plus is that all of these things can be done in the local languages!
AgriBox makes every effort to operate as sustainably as possible, including by using solar energy and by sending data by text message as much as possible rather than via the internet.
Also involved in this initiative were Agri Vision Sahel, which brings together complementary start-ups from the agricultural sector, and the start-up Bi Musso, which operates an online store offering food products processed by women.
Prize: 10,000 euros to continue research activities and develop the project
All those involved in the awards ceremony at the AfricaMuseum. © AfricaMuseum
iStartUp: Citizen science as a means of controlling schistosomiasis (DR Congo and Uganda)
Schistosomiasis (bilharziasis) is caused by parasitic worms (Schistosoma) that bore through the skin. Infection occurs as a result of swimming in or drinking water contaminated with faeces from infected freshwater snails. To control the disease, it is necessary to have an overview of how those snails have spread.
But that is an extremely cumbersome and expensive job unless ... civilians are deployed! Fifty civilians – women and men from DR Congo and Uganda – were equipped with a smartphone, protective clothing and a snail shovel. They identified, counted and photographed freshwater snails in places where people come into contact with water and forwarded all of the data to the "KoBo Toolbox" app.
Congolese and Ugandan doctoral students then set to work on the data. They also made use of machine learning to create an app that is capable of identifying freshwater snails with 97% accuracy. Local health centres and ministries can consult this tool, as well as the snail distribution maps, online.
The students are currently refining the app so that it can also be used in remote areas and are adding educational materials about schistosomiasis. The ATRAP project is a collaboration between Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Uganda), the Université de Kinshasa (Congo), the AfricaMuseum and KU Leuven.
Prize: the winner will be given the opportunity to do an internship in an incubator of a Belgian or international company up to a value of 25,000 euros
iChoose: A protocol that provides a more rapid response to natural disasters
The Sustainability-as-a-Service protocol seeks to save lives in natural disasters by allowing people to donate more easily and by ensuring that donations have maximum impact. The protocol places particular emphasis on the speed of money transfers.
This is an important advantage for both donors and humanitarian organisations because until now, they have often been too slow to respond due to bureaucratic rules and fundraising difficulties.
Prize: 5,000 euros
The selected initiatives must meet one of the priorities of the Belgian Development Cooperation's digital strategy:
- better use of data (big data);
- digitalisation that enables disadvantaged people to progress (inclusive societies);
- digitalisation leading to sustainable economic growth that benefits all.
The D4D initiative supports SDG9 which aims, amongst other things, to promote innovation. The laureates themselves are contributing towards various SDGs. AgriBox, for example, is contributing towards SDG2 (no hunger), while ATRAP is contributing towards SDG3 (health).