Today with our phones we can order cabs, takeaway, we can pay people, we can hold digital currently like bitcoins, we can find any route to any place, we can check our health, monitor our house and even kids, we can look at Earth from outer space, we can talk and send pics and movies from everywhere in the world like we are next doors. The technologies behind the apps we like so much, are often called disruptive. Disruptive means that an old way of doing things suddenly becomes obsolete and that suddenly a whole new world of possibilities opens.

'Disruption creates a new world of possibilities for sustainability'

It is clear that disruption holds great promise for moving humanity towards sustainability.  A disruption will completely change the way in which we spend our time and money. It will change the way we eat, use energy, travel, etc etc. The sustainability disruption is not yet occurring but is seriously on its way.  There are quite a number of examples of technological applications that signal towards this. Some examples:

Global Forest Watch convened by the World Resources Institute is an interactive online forest monitoring and alert system designed to empower people everywhere with the information they need to better manage and conserve forest landscapes.
AirVisualEarth of data scientist Yann Boquillod is an air pollution map that uses data from satellites and more than 8000 monitoring stations to display global air pollution in real time.
Water Risk Filter of the World Wide Fund for nature helps companies to assess water related risk may undermine future profitability. Interestingly, it combines technical indicator data on physical water risk with non technical indicator data on regulation and reputation risk to produce a water risk profile for a company. It is directed at non-water experts.

What all these have in common is that they inform non-expert people and organisations based on credible authoritative data and knowledge in order to create awareness and action through a globally accessible web application platform. They are not yet really disruptive but you can call them pre-disruptive. The platforms do stimulate people to do something but not yet in a very easy and intuitive way. On the part of the user, substantial ‘work’  is required to understand what the information means and how they may act on it.


'Little money in IT for sustainability requires strong collaboration'

The challenge for disruption in the sustainability area is to create this intuitive way of understanding and triggering the logical action required. Not easy, but I am sure we will see tools and platforms move in that direction. It takes time as there is very limited money available for the sustainability sector to pour into this.

In GSI we are working in this field as well. In house, we have developed the WaterData4Action watershed information system to help users manage their watershed and implement water stewardship. And, we created the Geographic Agricultural Water Footprint Calculator to simplify and substantially decrease the costs of the  calculation of agricultural water footprints. All to help further sustainable water use.

The promise for IT development in the field of water, climate change, environmental and social sustainability is huge. However, we and other experts and developers cannot do this alone. The field is just too wide, too deep and the resources are too scarce. That is why we have to collaborate and reach out to others. So that together we become a force of development and innovation to create disruption for sustainability.

'Join the force of development to create disruption for sustainability'