International Telecommunication Union   ITU
 
 
Site Map Contact us Print Version
 Thursday, November 10, 2011
ITU Green App Challenge - Meet the developers! (#3) - Interview with Ms. Maria Dolores Rodriguez De Azero

The first ITU Green ICT Application Challenge, supported by RIM and Telefonica, 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.

One of the challenge’s finalists, Ms. Maria Dolores Rodriguez De Azero from Spain, developed a concept for an application entitled, “Effi-e Play Green.” This application aims to reduce GHG emissions in the tourist industry by monitoring energy and water consumption in hotels. Through the app, “Effi-e Play Green” promotes sustainable behavior throughout hotels, offering rewards to sustainable customers through eco-points. We approached Maria Dolores 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 you do.

I am CEO of PUEBLOCHICO (www.pueblochico.com), a leisure park in La Orotava, a town in Tenerife. This park, which celebrates its 10th anniversary next July, reproduces in a 1:25 scale the most emblematic buildings on the island. In addition, the park offers walks in a garden setting with a great landscape, all below the mount Teide. A ride in PUEBLOCHICO educates our visitors on the Canary Islands’ history and customs, and also on its current situation from different perspectives.

In addition, I am the chairwoman of the IAMP (International Association of Miniature Parks). Finally, I am also the chairwoman of Turisfera (Tenerife Cluster Association of Tourism Innovation), a workspace composed of tourism businesses, public institutions, associations, and knowledge centers from all parts of the island. The aim of this cluster is to encourage and support innovative projects undertaken on the island. Alongside all this activity, I am a mother of four children, and so I am very busy!

[Q] How did you find about the Challenge, and why did you decide to take part?

Sustainability is one of Turisfera´s strategic lines of action. The Canary Islands will most likely be affected by climate change, so we are truly committed to working on solutions dealing with the causes and effects of environmental change. We are looking at developing the island’s tourism industry, while keeping a strong commitment to sustainable development and a respect for the  environment. 

Our first project to this effect was Effi-e Play Green, and it has become Turisfera’s flagship sustainability initiative. The Turisfera Management Team has worked incredibly hard in developing this project, to ensure it receives the credit it deserves. In this regard, I know that ITU is an organization actively promoting innovations and initiatives like this one. It was actually a member of the Board of Turisfera, someone deeply involved in sustainability issues, who told me about the ITU contest. We are really lucky to have a highly motivated team, with people that work very well together. As soon as we heard of the competition, we decided to take part. We strongly believe in the potential of Effi-e, and we saw this contest as an ideal platform to promote it.

[Q] Have you developed an app before or was this experience new to you?

Turisfera was launched last year and, as I have mentioned, Effi-e is the first project we have developed. We could not have started out better: not only is this project very exciting, but it has also been very well received by the sector as hotels’ efforts to improve their environmental management are made very visible to their guests. Indeed, Effi-e has turned out to be a more powerful communication tool than any environmental statement or sustainability report. In the development of Effi-e, Turisfera opted for collaboration with other companies and clusters; clusters such as RICAM (Cluster of Renewable Energy, Environment and Water Resources of the Canary Islands), Dobon Technologies, Proyectran, and Brandia - entities enriching the project with their experience. Although beginnings are always difficult, and even more so for such a young cluster, our experience has been both successful and very rewarding.

[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?

Turisfera conceived the Effi-e project a year ago. Since then, we have worked hard to turn the concept into a reality. The prototype is currently being tested at Hotel Tigaiga in Tenerife, a hotel  known worldwide for its environmental awareness. The special mention from ITU has been a finishing touch to our work, and we are very proud of this achievement.

[Q] How did the development of the app take place?  

 The project was reflected in our Strategic Plan. With the support of Tenerife’s local government, we obtained a grant to launch the project’s pilot phase through the TF Innova program.  

Effi-e’s main value is to demonstrate a hotel’s commitment to the environment by involving its guests. Guests are personally involved in caring for the environment in a friendly, positive, fun way that consequently improves their experience of the island. This technological tool provides real-time information about guests’ energy and water consumption, as well as possible actions they can take to reduce their environmental impact. The guest is then actively involved in the process of optimizing the use of natural resources. It is a fun, competitive process and their degrees of  environmental awareness are rewarded with bonuses (like discounts in leisure centers, donations to carbon offset programs or to environmental awareness projects, etc.).  

Moreover, Effi-e’s real-time energy and water consumption information is also received by a hotel’s management. This picture of a hotel’s load on the environment helps its management not only with environmental concerns, but also with cost-benefit analyses of new processes or procedures.

As I have mentioned, we sought the cooperation of other clusters and entities from the very beginning of the project. Right after Hotel Tigaiga showed its interest in participating,  RICAM cluster performed an environmental audit that included monitoring the hotel’s energy and water consumption. At the same time, Proyectran worked out the development of the technological applications, and Brandia took charge of graphic design and communication strategies for the project.

[Q] What was your biggest challenge when designing the application?

I must say that, besides the usual difficulties in a project´s development, our biggest challenge has been the sheer scale of the initiative. Effi-e is a project with great potential to heighten Tenerife’s reputation as a sustainable destination, truly committed to caring for the environment. It has been very hard to adapt the prototype to our limited budget, as our team is continually producing good ideas which make the project even bigger and more valuable.

[Q] What was your motivation behind developing an app to combat climate change/promote sustainability?

The environment and environmental management have become resources of great importance in attracting tourists. It is a highly-weighted factor in the decisions  of tourists considering Spanish destinations. However, compared to our direct competitors, we are not in the best position when it comes to environmental sustainability. This challenge is however not without complexity. Policies to combat climate change and new international energy scenarios may have important indirect impacts on the tourism sector. Energy is the basis of multiple tourism processes and products, especially in tourist mobility and HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning).

In this sense, the competitiveness and attractiveness of tourist destinations seem increasingly vulnerable to the greenhouse gas mitigation policies and rising energy prices. Therefore, stakeholders must anticipate the impacts on the tourism sector likely to be made by such GHG reduction policies.

In any case, we must share the responsibility. It is crucial that the tourism industry - transportation and accommodation industry, tour operators, travel agencies, and tourist guides - encourages the use of technologies and logistics procedures that minimize the industry’s impact on the environment. We thus encourage the use of renewable energy and sustainable mobility projects by providing technical assistance and tax incentives, and also develop communication campaigns to increase the environmental awareness of both local people and tourists.

[Q] Where did your inspiration for this application come from?

We realized that eco-efficiency improvements performed by hotels are usually seen simply as part of business management, and are not adequately communicated to the customer. We wanted to develop Effi-e as a tool that could communicate the real value of these hotels’ commitment to the environment.

[Q] What other activities are you involved in to help fight climate change and promote environmental sustainability?

My “green” commitment is reflected primarily in my private life. There are many examples of energy saving efforts, responsible consumption, reusing or recycling in my family environment. For me, an attitude of environmental awareness is of utmost importance to my family. Also, I participate in an investment company on a photovoltaic power plant of 14 MGW. In my opinion, this is one of the most promising future energy sources as it is clean, sustainable, and very successful in a place like Tenerife, where sunshine is guaranteed.

[Q] What do you expect from this application in the future? Are you planning to further develop it?

Yes, indeed. We have identified the possible weaknesses of the Effi-e prototype, and this has allowed us to better define our goal. At the moment, we are launching a second phase of development that includes all the  improvements made to the prototype. Effi-e aims to become a brand signifying eco-efficiency and responsible energy use, in many tourism-intensive regions. We hope to promote Effi-e with hotels yielding net zero carbon footprints, by working with a network of companies and their eco-conscious clients, proud to collaborate in the name of environmental preservation.  

[Q] What is your advice to developers wishing to create apps to help combat climate change/promote sustainability?  

I would suggest they opt for a cooperative work approach in the development of their apps, and that they never lose courage in pursuing their goals. Our future cannot be separated from the battle against climate change. It is essential that all contribute towards a greener society.

[Q] Any last thoughts?  

I just want to give my most sincere congratulations to ITU for the organization of this contest. I wish there were more initiatives like this one!

To find out more about Ms. Rodriguez De Azero and her activities in Turisfera, contact her via ITU by sending an email to climate@itu.int. Meet the rest of the winners and relive the ITU Green Application Challenge by accessing http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/climatechange/greenict/index.html.

For more information about the ITU’s activities on climate change visit www.itu.int/climate.