Africa is the second most polluted continent in the world, yet it remains the least studied. To better understand and ultimately mitigate this issue, a baseline for waste in Africa needs to be developed. Creating such a baseline, however, is an enormous task and requires a massive amount of field data to validate the results. Collecting such data would ordinarily prove too costly in terms of capacity, resources and time. Nevertheless, with the rapid growth of modern technology, new possibilities have risen that would not only facilitate the collection of field data, but also promote citizen science: Mobile applications.
Mobile applications (or “apps”) are convenient, cost effective and widespread, which make them a simple yet powerful tool to collect valuable data at a scale and efficiency that was not previously possible. The idea of using mobile apps to acquire field data on waste is not a novel concept. There are numerous apps that exist which are designed for this purpose.
Therefore SST, through the AMWN programme, conducted a series of interlinking tests and analyses of existing mobile applications, that are able to record and report waste data from the environment, to determine their suitability for our citizen science initiative. However, none of the existing apps met our criteria for the initiative, with one of the main issues being that the data are stored internationally. This means a delay in data processing. We concluded that a new mobile app needs to be developed that would be tailor made for, but not limited to, Africa.
We are currently in the process of developing and testing a new litter monitoring app that will cater to both the general public as well as scientific researchers. Once the app is completed, we plan to launch a citizen science initiative using the mobile app, and eventually roll it out to the rest of Africa.