ITU Green App Challenge - Meet the developers! - Interview with Ms. Euphraith Muthoni Masinde
Green ICT Application Challenge sought to uncover innovative
concept papers for climate change related ICT applications. ITU
announced the Challenge’s winner and papers deserving special
mention at the Green Standards Week held in Rome, 5-9 September
2011. The event was supported by BlackBerrry and Telefonica.
One of the challenge’s finalists, Ms. Euphraith Muthoni Masinde
from Kenya, developed a concept for an application entitled, “A
Community-Based System for Biodiversity Degradation.” This
application aims to tackle climate change through community
engagement and knowledge sharing. The app proposes a system
harnessing traditional and indigenous knowledge on biodiversity
and conservation. This information will be brought to light
through community-based focus groups, and then disseminated to
users through a database feeding data directly to mobile phones.
Users would then build on this knowledge to create their own
We approached Euphraith to discuss the inspiration for her
concept and her experience with the challenge. Here is what she
had to say.
[Question] Tell us a little about yourself and what
I am a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science at the
University of Cape Town, South Africa. I am a member of the HPI
Research School in ICT for development (ICT4D), as well as a
member of the Intelligent Systems and Advanced Telecommunication
Laboratory. I am currently on study-leave from the School of
Computing and Informatics at the University of Nairobi, where I
am a lecturer.
I hold an MSc. in Computer Science from the Vrije Universiteit
Brussel, Belgium, and a BSc. in Computer Science from the
University of Nairobi, Kenya. My research objective is to come
up with a drought and climate change monitoring/warning solution
based on wireless sensor networks and mobile phones. This
research also seeks to determine how these two technologies can
complement indigenous African knowledge on droughts.
[Q] How did you find about the Challenge, and why
did you decide to take part?
I am registered with the ITU’s Academic database,and it was
through this network that I became aware of the Challenge and
received an invitation to take part.. I decided to take part in
the competition because my current area of research revolves
around a number of topics on ITU’s list of activities. For
instance, I am piggybacking the design of my wireless sensor
networks on the ITU’s schematic layers of a ubiquitous sensor
network proposal. In short, I am just fascinated by the
activities of ITU, and this made me quickly submit my
application to the Challenge.
[Q] Have you developed an app before or was this
experience new to you?
Yes, I have developed a number of applications over the last 15
years. My first job assignment at the University of Nairobi was
as a computer software analyst/developer. To give an example of
my work in this role, I designed and developed the students’
management information system that is currently in use at the
university. As a lecturer, I specialize in teaching courses with
a software development emphasis, and I develop software as a
[Q] Was the application that you presented something
you’ve been working on for a long time, or did you develop the
app for this challenge? How did the development of the app take
My application is something I have been working on for the last
18 months, and I intend to complete it by the end of 2012. The
development of my app is still under way.I have completed the
template for collecting the indigenous knowledge on biodiversity
degradation, and this takes the form of an Android-based mobile
application. The website to disseminate this information is also
complete, and it is a PHP-Apache-MySQL application.
[Q] What is the biggest challenge you are expecting
upon completion of the application?
My biggest challenge lies in collecting this elusive indigenous
knowledge on biodiversity degradation. It is an enormous volume
of information and the task of collecting it is one requiring
more resources than I currently have at my disposal.
[Q] What was your motivation behind developing an
app to combat climate change/promote sustainability?
I viewed the competion as an avenue through which to publish
what I consider a very innovative idea of compacting climate
change information. I also entered hoping to win the prize and
use the prize-money to fund the completion of my application.
[Q] Where did your inspiration for this application
It came from my personal encounters with the devastating effects
of climate change on biodiversity. I was born and brought up in
a semi-arid area of the Eastern region of Kenya. In this remote
village called Rugogwe, the formerly semi-arid area is now on
the verge of becoming arid.
I grew up and lived in this village for over 20 years, and I
have witnessed phenomenal degradation of its biodiversity. Crops
such as sweet potatoes and bananas, which thrived in the late
1970’s and early 80’s, have no chance of flourishing in the now
hostile climate. Seasonal rivers and streams that retained water
throughout the year now struggle to retain water for a day. The
size of maize crops and finger millet bunches produced by the
area’s farms have shrunk drastically, and many musical birds
that sang joyful songs during rainy seasons are now extinct. The
bulls, cows, goats, sheep and chicken are no longer as big as we
knew them in years past, rains do not fall when we expect them
to and, when they do, they cause floods and carry away the
little soil and sand left from sand harvesting!
Biodiversity here has been turned upside-down. I am determined
to use my doctoral level education to contribute a solution for
[Q] What other activities are you involved in to
help fight climate change and promote environmental
I have developed a novel solution for down-scaling the
collection and dissemination of weather information to a local
level. My solution makes use of the prevalence of mobile phones
and versatile wireless sensor networks.
[Q] What do you expect from this application in the
future? Are you planning to further develop it? What is your
advice to developers wishing to create apps to help combat
climate change/promote sustainability?
I am determined to see the full realization of my application. I
will first pilot it in three selected areas in Kenya, and then
hopefully scale it up to the rest of Kenya and the Horn of
Africa in general. To my fellow developers, I would encourage
people to create community-driven applications. It is difficult
to go wrong with such initiatives, because one ends up with a
solution ‘for people-by-the-people’.
[Q] Any last thoughts?
I am completely thrilled that the prominent judges deemed my
application worthy of a special mention. This has really boosted
my morale and encouraged me to move even faster in implementing
my application. Thank you very much to the ITU team that came up
with this noble idea.
To find out more about Ms. Muthoni and her activities, visit her
http://www.muthonimasinde.net/, or contact her via ITU by
sending an email to
email@example.com. Meet the rest of the winners and relive the
ITU Green Application Challenge by accessing
For more information about the ITU’s activities on climate