Nº 9 2011 > News
ITU Green Application Challenge 2011
Smart Recycling app wins competition
The winner of the first ITU Green Application Challenge was announced during Green Standards Week, held in Rome on 5–9 September 2011, at an event supported by BlackBerrry and Telefonica. The 52 entries from around the world dealt with a variety of themes — climate change, energy efficiency, community engagement, eco-design, and the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions. Some participants were driven by previous volunteering experience, others were inspired by having personally seen environmental degradation. One thing they all had in common was a belief in the ability of information and communication technologies (ICT) to help protect and preserve the environment.
The winning application “Smart Recycling” was designed by Lis Lugo Colls. Four other applications were singled out for special mention (see box). As Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, explained, “The objective of this competition is to push contestants to think outside the box and develop concept papers for an ICT application that will be a valuable contribution to green ICT industry.”
Meet the winner
The winning application, named “Smart Recycling”, helps mobile users locate nearby recycling and garbage bins, and offers general advice on recycling. The application will benefit citizens, government recycling programmes and private recycling companies by creating a more sustainable and resource-efficient future through community engagement and eco-design.
As her prize for winning the competition, Lis Lugo Colls was invited to present her concept during Green Standards Week, as well as receiving USD 10 000 in cash to further develop the application. Thanking the sponsors, she said “I believe private enterprises and industries should be the first to fulfil social responsibility initiatives, and this competition is a fine example of what can be achieved when they do.”
A 27 year old native of Venezuela, Lis is currently studying for a Master’s degree and is employed by a telecommunication company in Spain. Having been born in a country where there are no recycling policies, she was interested in how municipal solid waste was treated in Europe. She saw the potential of smartphones in creating awareness, even in countries where no recycling policies exist. “You don’t need to be a genius or invent the wheel, you only need to be altruistic and think of big actions to improve our system and help planet Earth”, says Lis.
We approached Lis to discuss the inspiration for her concept and her experience with the challenge. Here is what she had to say.
- How did you find out about the ITU Green Application Challenge?
Every day I spend some time reading the news, and have found that social networks are very useful tools in following companies, groups or people that interest you. To keep up-to-date on telecommunication and energy efficiency standards, I have been following @ITU_News on twitter and Telefonica’s “RC and sustainability” blog. This is where I found out about the challenge.
- Why did you decide to take part in the challenge?
I have had many innovative ideas, most with a focus on increasing social welfare. Often these ideas remain dreams, because becoming a social entrepreneur is far from simple. When I heard of the challenge, I thought it a perfect opportunity to test one of these socially-oriented ideas, and improving recycling systems really appealed to me. My idea also fitted the challenge’s goals very well, and this motivated me to enter.
Only after entering did the real work and frustration come. Turning an idea into a real, feasible concept takes months of long working hours and a lot of courage. This is the first competition I have entered, and at times I asked myself why I was putting so much time and effort into something with such an uncertain result. But, as the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs’ mantra goes, “don’t be afraid to fail, because the more times you fail, the closer you are to success.”
- Have you developed an app before?
I have been developing software and websites since I was young, and I wanted to move up a step to smartphone application development. It is not a drastic change as the programming logic is the same, but the methodologies and tools have evolved in a way that makes developing apps easier and more intuitive.
- Was the application that you presented something you’ve been working on for a long time?
I had the idea many months before the challenge appeared. It was therefore a great boost to hear about the challenge, as it was a perfect opportunity to turn the idea into reality.
- What was your biggest challenge in designing the application?
The biggest challenge was to create a smartphone application that would be useful to citizens, and require only minimal technological know-how to use. Behind easy-to-use applications there is a great infrastructure that integrates high-technology tools such as databases, geo-positioning, RSS feeds, and so on. It is a big challenge for a computer scientist to understand about usability and user-centred design.
- What motivated you to develop the app?
Everyone should care about the environment and reducing climate change — these are global issues. We take for granted the resources we use, and live in a consumer-oriented society where people buy, consume and dispose of goods carelessly. Sustainability should be a goal for all human-beings, and I believe recycling is a way for individuals to contribute meaningfully to the environment.
- Where did your inspiration for this application come from?
When I came to live in Europe, I became curious as to how municipal solid waste was treated, how the system was implemented and how people worked together to help the system. This is how I came up with the idea of building a tool that could reach individual citizens, helping them to recycle their waste better. Smartphones are widespread and the Internet is accessible to everyone, so I believed my app could help create awareness about recycling even in countries without national recycling policies.
- What other activities are you involved in to help fight climate change and promote environmental sustainability?
I have assembled a group of motivated entrepreneurs with different skills to work on the subject of Smart Applications for the City. We are working on a website called www.smartapps.es, which will provide information on sustainability applications. We are now working on the Smart Recycling application and, at the same time, we are connecting with more communities and people interested in these issues.
- What do you see as the future of this application?
The objective is to create a technological platform that merges the recycling efforts of citizens, recycling centres and local waste collection systems. With local people’s help, this application could be available in several countries in the coming year.
ITU Green Application Challenge 2011: Special mentions
Simone Ferlin and Stephen Reiter (Germany)
“Make Me Green — Delivering Context-Specific Suggestions for a Green Lifestyle” seeks to raise awareness of the impact that different lifestyles have on the environment and on climate change. Using a tracking system, the application provides questions and suggestions about the user’s lifestyle, generating a greenness rating that can be compared with other users’ ratings.
Maria Dolores Rodriguez De Azero (Spain)
“Effi-e Play Green” aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the tourist industry by monitoring energy and water consumption in hotels. It promotes sustainable behaviour in hotels by offering eco-points.
Euphraith Muthoni Masinde (Kenya)
“A Community-Based System for Biodiversity Degradation” aims to reduce global climate change through community engagement and knowledge sharing. Traditional and indigenous knowledge on biodiversity and conservation is gathered through community-based focus groups and then disseminated via the database to users, with the data being stored directly on the phone. Users can then apply the traditional and indigenous knowledge to build on their own conservation practices.
Praneel Raja (India)
“Mobile App to Use a Vehicle to its Fullest Capacity” envisages improving efficiency in the transport sector by making sure that vehicles are used to their full capacity. The app provides a forum that takes account of drivers’ routes and where users can request a ride in a vehicle with a vacancy. By decreasing the number of vehicles on the road, the application would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
* Find out more about the ITU Green Application Challenge and read the interviews with the shortlisted developers at http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/climatechange/greenict/index.html
The interviews were conducted by Robert Narvaez, Matthew Dalais and Jose Maria Diaz Batanero, who also helped coordinate articles in this edition with Cristina Bueti.
For more information on ITU´s activities on climate change, please visit www.itu.int/climate or send an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org