This is Why We Are Excited about a GWF Conservation Academy

2015 is the year of wearable technology – technology that is able to measure and analyse personal health.

It got me to thinking: I wonder how far we are from the day that humans will wake up in the morning, click a button on their “wrist-device” and check their own health stats (heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.), and follow that up immediately by checking the health stats of our planet (temperature, emissions, ocean health, percentage land cover under forest, etc.)?

And even more exciting, I wonder if the inventors, engineers and designers of tools like these will come from Good Work Foundation’s (GWF) Conservation Academy – which has as its core mission the directive to engage young rural people with conservation using digital tools.

Of course, as always we are looking ten years into the future. To a time when Hazyview and its satellite campuses have created an exciting “silicon bushveld” – one that has created a digital economy attached to conservation management. One where young Africans are participating in wildlife protection and developing cutting-edge solutions.

For conservation at the moment, the increased availability of real-time data, much of which is crowd-sourced from a variety of reliable sources, means that we are able to keep records that can be used to plot the health of the planet.

What is remarkable is that the data is not restricted to scientists and analysts. It is available to anyone with access to the Internet.

Here are two incredible examples:

 1.    Ocean Health Index

Want to know how healthy the ocean off your coast is? The Ocean Health Index is a quantifiable assessment of the capacity of our oceans to deliver benefits and resources sustainably. The tool synthesises dozens of datasets (from fisheries to tourism to habitats) and provides a global index score from 0 – 100 for economic zones and the high seas. In 2014, South Africa scored 65 (the same as Japan) and the USA scored 72. According to one report, leaders in Columbia were so disappointed with their score that they now use the index to guide their marine and coastal policies.

Click here to find out your ocean’s score (Scroll down on that page to see the world rankings). You can also keep up-to-date on the Ocean Health Index by following these social media:

Facebook | Twitter


 2.    Global Forest Watch

The Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an open source tool that combines satellite pictures, computer algorithms, and crowd-sourced data to track changes to forest cover in real time. Users are able to sign up for online alerts that send out messages when there’s activity in a selected country or specific area. The tool can also be used for environmental law enforcement. Instead of law enforcers searching huge areas for illegal loggers, they can use the tool to receive alerts.


Here are some interesting numbers reported by GFW, which is a project supported by Google:

  • 80.6 Million hectares of tree cover gain from 2000 – 2012
  • 229.8 Million hectares of tree cover loss from 2000 – 2012
  • 20.8 Million hectares of tree cover loss in 2012

You can watch the video below. You can also keep up-to-date on Global Forest Watch by following these social media:

Facebook | Twitter | Instragram

Imagine the possibilities. There is no doubt that big data is going to be an important tool for conservation scientists, but one of its greatest strengths is going to be its ability to keep individual citizens up-to-date on the health of our planet. Imagine your town or municipality had a “Recycling Index” or imagine you could instantly check the average temperature of the world right now on your smartphone (and access data that showed you that 2014 was the hottest year on record).

These are the reasons why we are excited about a Conservation Academy at GWF. Yes we are moving to an age of programming artificial intelligence and “driverless” cars, but we are also moving to an age where we are reawakening to the necessity of functioning ecosystems and a healthy planet. A planet that has rights.

GWF’s Conservation Academy – powered by Konica Minolta South Africa, and in partnership with the SanParks “Kids in Parks” programme – will take 40 rural schoolchildren per week into the Kruger National Park in 2016. In addition to a digital learning experience that focuses on mathematics and English, each one of those children will have already spent a year at GWF’s Open Learning Academy engaging with conservation apps and videos. The programme currently reaches 3000 schoolchildren in Mpumalanga per week.