A foresight driven community innovation program, the goal of Futures+ is to develop 100 pilot projects addressing sustainability challenges using deep technologies.
Together, Futures+ seeks to build an ecosystem for accelerating sustainable development through community innovation.
True sustainability cannot exist without a view to the future. We want our communities to be resilient in the face of massive sustainability challenges and identify the most relevant issues facing our society – now and in the years to come
Sustainability is a “wicked” problem – the complex interplay of many factors. Collaboration across sectors allows us to come up with the most innovative, useful and practical solutions to create an impact in our ever changing world.
We believe that the “wicked” problems we are facing today require the brightest minds and the most advanced technology to be solved. Solutions based on meaningful technology innovation have the potential to serve as an enabler of change at a wider scale, impacting the society. Thus, Futures+ highlights the use of deep technology to solve problems.
What sets the Futures+ program apart, is its strong focus on using (deep) tech to create social impact solutions that address relevant issues.
We have focused on 3 promising technologies that can help to solve the “wicked” problems the world faces today.
Artificial intelligence can help us address problems that are too complex for humans to understand. Therefore, AI has great potential to help us solve the “wicked” problems we face with sustainability challenges.
The Internet of Things can help to bring the power of computing and data to places that were previously impossible. Using IoT, we can leverage this power to make informed and intelligent decisions about the future, empowering us to act sustainably.
Capturing and relating data points together with geo-location through Geographic Information Systems enables data-driven decision making at the nodal level. GIS therefore presents tremendous potential to grasp and ultimately solve convoluted sustainability challenges.
While there are many problem areas that require bright minds and deep technology to be solved, our focus for 2020 is on the three areas of pressing social impact issues as resilient solutions are needed to support a growing population in the face of climate change and pandemics.
Saving aquaculture from drowning
Optimum temperature and environmental conditions are essential to nurturing prawn and fish culture in a pond. The high sensitivity of surroundings and constant monitoring requirement call for a new methodology to keep the development of cultures in check. This in turn increases the safety and productivity of these cultures by reducing the cost of the operation. Can sensors and novel data processing methods help us in solving this challenge?
Challenge Statement: How might we increase the productivity and efficiency of aquaculture for farmers while maintaining sustainability in the environment?
Region: Andhra Pradesh, India. (Implementation partner: Byrraju Foundation and Dr. Srinivas Thumalapenta, IBM)
Background: The world needs to produce at least 50% more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050. But climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25%. The land, biodiversity, oceans, forests, and other forms of natural capital are being depleted at unprecedented rates. Unless we change how we grow our food and manage our natural capital, food security—especially for the world’s poorest—will be at risk.
It is well known that prawn and fish culture is a highly sensitive system that needs a lot of precision to know about the pond environment. During the past one and half-decade, the shrimp culture got doubled in terms of its area under cultivation, with a lot of vagaries in production as well as the quality of the produce. Having high sensitivity in the life forms with its associated mortality, it needs integrated pond management systems to get adapted. Due to the nature of creatures living in aquatic environments with a lot of mobility, intensely changing environment, and dynamic nature of enabling weather conditions that prevail, continuous monitoring of various physical, chemical, and biological elements is essential.
The monitoring of ponds as a continuum, remotely and knowing, getting alerts is felt essential to track the productivity, process steps, and increase the safety of creatures. Some of the automation processes would also lead to the optimization of resources, thus reducing the cost of inputs/operations as well as increased productivity. Any semi-automation or full automation reduces the drudgery of farmers, farm labor, and keeps the mortality rate low and reduces the risk for farmers, advancing them to increased profitability.
Any kind of continuous and real-time monitoring, automated operations, artificial intelligence that would fetch for timely decision making will help to understand the nitty-gritty, creating sustainability in the system and increase profitability for aquafarmers.
Possible intervention areas: Provide a solution package consisting of Sensors, Communication methods, Data processing, message dissemination to farmers. Providing Agriculture specialty resources to help with business logic needed in processing the data.
Tools like AI and IoT can be put to use along with data analytics taking into account factors like water quality, feed management, creature mobility, mortality, live population count, and many others, to ensure a precision system is set in place to indicate and monitor in its continuum.
Predicting the cracks on the ground and clouds in the sky, before time
Climate change is a pressing concern for all today, especially for the farmers. Being unprepared for droughts and heavy rains is a recipe for disaster in the fields. To predict the occurrence pattern of such calamities, extensive technology can be utilized to aid the farmers to protect their products and establish food security in East Java, Indonesia.
Challenge statement: How might we enable farmers to deal with uncertainties of Climate change like untimely heavy rainfalls and droughts so it doesn’t lead to harvest failures and cause food security issues?
Region: Maharashtra, India, and East Java, Indonesia.
Harvesting is a time-sensitive operation. What that means is that a farmer has about 2 weeks to harvest his crops. Sooner or later and the crop would either be too raw or too ripe. However, in this window of time, the farmer tries to optimize the harvest so that the crop has the maximum moisture content, so that it looks the fresher, weighs more and consequently fetches better prices. However, due to seasonal shifts because of climate change, untimely rainfalls have been observed in the last few years.
A similar case was in Maharashtra in October – November 2019, when untimely rainfalls caused a total area crop damage of 33% of crops such as soybean, cotton, rice, and vegetables, amounting to 94.53 lakh hectares and affecting more than 1 crore farmers. Since this was sudden and unexpected, crops that were almost ready to be harvested got wasted as well. If the rainfalls could have been predicted even 3 days in advance and an advisory issued to the farmers, a lot of the crop damage would have been saved.
Indonesia is a tropical and agrarian country located on the center of the equatorial line making it prone to drought. Drought is a routine disaster in several places in Indonesia including East Java. As one of the biggest vegetable producers in Indonesia, East Java’s drought can trigger food security issues in Indonesia.
In 2019, 34.006 hectares of farmland in East Java was hit by drought mainly that of rice-producing areas, 5.069 hectares of which were declared harvest failed due to water scarcity. Drought hits East Java once a year, but however, the farmers are always unprepared to take proper and preventive actions.
If the rainfall patterns can be determined significantly in advance, taking into account historical data, weather pattern shifts, and the current year’s projections, we can suggest a better cropping window so that a significant portion of the crop can be harvested before the rains.
Potential Intervention areas: The above-mentioned challenges offer opportunities for innovators from different fields of studies such as Design, Agriculture, Electronics, and Information Technology to use Futures Thinking and suitable technology interventions.
The collected data can be used later on to fuel a Machine Learning (ML) system to produce easily digestible information providing insights to the farmers about the prediction of precipitation, incoming signals of drought, and its occurrence patterns. Based on the accuracy of the forecast and the number of days the rainfall is expected, the advisory could be either a General advisory or a Severe one. This data-backed prediction will not only enable farmers to take preventive and proper actions to save their farms before the drought or heavy rainfall happens, but also provides certainty for insurance companies to be able to guarantee the farmland making a win-win solution for the two entities.
Ray of hope in a dark tunnel - The employment crisis
Covid-19 paves the way to the dark tunnel of recession. With unemployment rates high in Indonesia, it creates a peculiar problem for the country as it manages to address the huge market gaps. However, a ray of hope for young and budding entrepreneurs can be seen at the end of the tunnel as they build a foundation with the help of tools like cloud computing and data analytics.
Challenge: How should the community use technology to transform the new wave of unemployment into a new stream of entrepreneurs?
Coronavirus leads the economy to a worldwide recession. The recession is foreseen to be the greatest in the 21st century and it has taken a toll with the ever-increasing unemployment rate. In April alone, Indonesia has experienced 2.8 million unemployment as a result of halting business operations. The concerning unemployment rate is addressed by the government through the unemployment benefit, namely, the pre-employment card program.
The program seeks to reskill/upskill the workforce with up to 3.5million pay for the first 4-month until the workers may shift to the new employment opportunities or to start their own business. The effort will not be as easy as expected with constraints derived from the social and physical distancing. And to learn new / upgrading skills require time to master. The positive light is, there are huge market gaps emerging to be addressed by new business models.
The negatively impacted industries are tourism, oil, and gas, construction, property, and are unique to the positively impacted industries, i.e: e-commerce, fast-moving consumer goods, logistics, and pharmaceuticals. The shifts will require significant lead time yet the economy needs to sustain buying power. Therefore, an ecosystem of disciplines is required to come together as solutions for the growing industries. In this case, imagine an ecosystem of unemployed people – a virtual start-up – emerging to fill in the market gap. But how would such effort be orchestrated in such a way that eventually recession leads to more entrepreneurial youths for the community livelihood?
Potential Intervention areas :
A crowd-based web platform, cloud computing, data analytics, and future of work.
Innovators may use technology to drive the unemployed talents to establish a herd of enterprising workforce with controlled risk. Therefore, instead of competing with one another, they collaborate to utilize available talents with available information. This is not possible when the economy is growing and the demand for talents is high.
Virtual marketplace for virtual start-ups
Marketplace for talents that offer collaborations for business ideas that are not limited to freelance services, relevant training courses by tech vendors or governments, and industry practitioners, including venture capitalists. The idea is to “reorganize” the unemployed talents into the new future of the workforce.
Fishing for demand in a shattering economy
The export and import of products are the foundation for any economy. The destruction in demand for fish and its products have negatively affected the uptake of fish production. As we move towards a modern economy integrated with technology, can new tools be developed to overcome this obstacle and generate demand?
Challenge: How to improve the livelihood in the fisherman community through efficient production and distribution in the fishing industry,
Region: Riau Province, Indonesia.
Background: After the global pandemic, Indonesia has followed the steps of other countries in the world to impose travel and trade restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Fish exports to China, in particular, have declined significantly. This step has hit fishing communities in Jambi province on Sumatra, which is highly dependent on the Chinese market.
People have begun to reduce activities outside the home, such as shopping for basic necessities at the market, eating in restaurants, or hanging out at the cafe. This causes a decrease in demand so that it will adversely affect the fish caught by fishermen and fish cultivators. If it continues for a long time, it is feared that it will have a negative impact on the uptake of fish production from fishers and fish farmers.
Based on data from BPS(Badan Pusat Statistik) the income of small fishermen is lower than their expenses. The major effects seen due to the COVID-19 are :
- Fishermen are reluctant to go to the sea because the people’s purchasing power is decreasing.
- Export demand declined due to lockdown policy in the destination country.
- Distribution of sales constrained: fish transport trucks that have departed cannot return due to local policies in some areas.
Possible intervention areas:
The development of processing technology using IoT tools in the implementation of a fishery-based food industry downstream program in accordance with the Indonesian Fisheries Industry Plan (RIPIN).
Participants can explore the use of technology in the process of catching fish at sea by fishermen and fish farmers using GIS and weather forecasting,
Possible innovative solutions that can help in inter-state cooperation in terms of fish exports are required using GIS tools.
Participants can also work on technological solutions using GIS and AI tools for the Ministry of Agriculture policy to collaborate with an online transportation platform in the process of distributing food needs.
References and sources:
Best out of waste - a management strategy
Efficient land utilization is crucial to take a step forward in waste minimization. Overuse of natural resources and indiscriminate pesticide use can lead to increased production costs and reduced profitability. Waste processing devices applying the principles of green technology can be adopted to regulate residues and make the best out of waste.
Challenge: How might we help farmers towards waste utilization and residue management in sectors like grain production and Horticulture, for them to reap economic benefits as well as contribute to environmental sustainability?
Region: Andhra Pradesh, India(Byrraju Foundation) and Indonesia.
Background: The farmers in the East and West Godavari districts, which are being termed as the Rice Bowl of India, in Andhra Pradesh have been cultivating Paddy since time immemorial. The Paddy crop is grown in about 70% of the farmlands in these regions in Kharif and Rabi seasons year after year.
This kind of mono-cropping system had contributed immensely to the stable food security and the production capacities of the farmers in these regions though, it led to the emergence of numerous complications such as soil health degradation, overuse, and degeneration of natural resources, indiscriminate use of chemicals, extraneous weed growth, increased drudgery, increased production cost, reduced profitability, etc. The quality of the crop produced is on the downhill and the access to the markets is shrinking by each season. As a result, the small and marginal farmers are becoming the hardest hit ones in this process. Therefore, it is felt that the possible solution could be bringing in technology solutions to the reach of farmers to enable them to make timely and appropriate decisions that may increase their qualitative crop productivity and thereby improve the quality of lives.
Horticulture is an agricultural commodities’ sub-sector that has an important role in the Indonesian economy. Its high economic value causes farmers to carry their livelihood in this sub-sector.
Yet, the growth of Indonesia’s fruit harvest area only grew 30% during the period (1990-2014), or less than 2% per year (Ministry of Agriculture-Directorate General of Horticulture 2018). This situation is exacerbated by the aging crisis in farmers. According to the Statistics Bureau of Indonesia, most of the Indonesian farmers are now aged 45 – 54 years old (BPS 2019) causing their productivity to decline.
Based on the WTO’s data in 2018, in the last 10 years Indonesia’s horticulture import value increased to 11.7% per year. In 2008, USD 282 million became USD 738 million in 2018, and in the same period the value of vegetable imports increased by 9.8%. The import value which continues to increase along with the growth of national consumption for vegetables reaches 45% per year and fruit consumption growth reaches 35% (FAO).
This means Indonesia’s horticulture sub-sector has a production deficit. It also answers why it plays an important role in the rapid inflation due to the wide gap between demand and supply. The gap is due to the distance of production centers and consumption areas (urban) which are far apart. Low commodity shelf-life and broad distribution areas also have a high-risk impact on the commodity.
In addition, Indonesia’s horticulture production is constrained by resource-intensive activities with low added value in the supply chain, competition with imported commodities, highly-processed alternative products (Sinaga, 2017), and risks of weather uncertainty.
Possible intervention Areas:
Increasing waste utilization to reduce production costs through the implementation of processing technology.
Sample proposed solution: Waste processing device that helps farmers to separate the inedible portion of fruits so it can be reused in the cultivation area as nutrients to improve production efficiency and reducing production costs.
For the inedible parts of fruits and vegetables that would usually be discarded, farmers can be assisted with selling those as livestock feed to certain locations.
An artificial intelligence assisted mechanism that could help segregate rotten fruits from the good ones could help immensely in reducing food wastage.
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‘Health is Wealth’ - Obsolete or Prevalent?
The fact that special advertisements have to be released to wash hands and sanitize produce before consumption proves a lack of personal hygiene in the community as well as medical professionals. In these trying times, it becomes vital for us to use the latest innovation in the field of medicine to reduce the risk of contraction of infectious diseases for patients as well as doctors.
How Might We Question:
How might we reduce the risk of patients and medical workers from getting exposed to infectious diseases when doing medical examinations?
Community health is built by the collective participation of many parties (e.g.: public health workers, local government, and citizens) in maintaining the physical and mental well-being of the people in a specific geographic region. This includes initiatives to help community members maintain and improve their health, prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and lengthen their life expectancy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions for global health. As health facilities around the world are overwhelmed responding to COVID-19 cases, health workers and non-COVID-19 patients are both paranoid with getting exposed to the disease.
In Indonesia, 44 health workers are reported to have died because of COVID-19 due to inappropriate PPE and dishonest patients who covered up their medical and travel history. This discourages regular patients from visiting hospitals for medical advice.
Potential Intervention areas
The above-mentioned challenges offer opportunities for innovators from different fields of studies (e.g.: Medical, Information Technology, Design, Electronics, and others) to use suitable technology interventions such as
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
To invent a digital health technology or wearable that can help people to identify their health problems with high accuracy which will notify the nearest medical facility shall an emergency condition detected. This will trigger new medical inventions that will still be relevant and useful to the post-COVID situation.
The Tele-ECG initiative, a telemedicine service used to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment of suspected myocardial infarction in patients not in the hospital.
It has helped decrease call time to treatment time, resulting in faster treatment and better patient outcomes. Cardio patients’ outcomes have improved 15–20%. Having the ability to connect and consult with a cardiologist remotely has improved the quality of service and care from ambulances and paramedics.
A wearable that can identify a user’s health condition and suggest medical advice to prevent further implications
A wearable that can keep track of a user’s vital parameters and give a warning when the user enters a pandemic red zone or when a medical emergency is about to happen.
Availability of PPEs - A Challenge
Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) are encouraged for all medical professionals taking care of infected patients. The shortage of such basic equipment has lead to the spreading of the virus and the death of many medical workers. Lack of data on the availability of PPEs and distribution results in supply issues. Can deep technology address this issue?
How might we effectively map out the availability of PPE and Personal Hygiene supplies to the community?
Region of Origin: Indonesia
Coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets sprayed when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.1 The droplets can be inhaled by another person nearby or stick to any surface and are still infectious (until 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard).2
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) announced COVID-19 as a world pandemic, good personal hygiene practices, social distancing, and wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have become strongly encouraged.
Ever since, people are starting to panic-buy hand sanitizers, medical-grade PPE, and masks in large quantities causing shortages, higher prices, and disrupting the supply chains. This leads to an uneven distribution that impacts the community and the health sector.
In Indonesia, 44 health workers are reported to have died because of COVID-19. Health workers were bound to use inappropriate substitutes of PPE such as raincoats and plastic bottle gallons due to the shortage, putting their lives at risk. This is worsened by the low awareness of the patient which in some cases hides their medical and travel history, exposing the health workers to the disease3.
In response to this situation, The Indonesian Ministry of Industry (KEMENPERIN) urged Indonesian Garment Industries to start producing PPE for hospitals nation-wide. There are 28 companies involved with an estimated total capacity of 17,8 million units per month4
However, until now, the government has not announced the exact numbers for PPE demands in Indonesia and the distribution is still considered very slow due to data inconsistency.5
Potential Intervention areas :
The above-mentioned challenges offer opportunities for innovators from different fields of studies to use Futures Thinking and suitable technology interventions such as Geographical Information System (GIS) and Web Platforms to help map out the availability of PPE and Personal Hygiene items within an area.
A crowd-based GIS web platform that will enable the community to find PPE and Personal Hygiene supplies faster
A web platform that allows shops to input stocks of relevant supplies which can be accessed by the public to query items. This platform will map out the nearest shops based on the users’ locations together with other information such as location, items availability, and point of contact as the feedback.
An online crowd-based GIS web platform for local communities to post scarce supplies
A web platform that allows the community to list down the resources that they can no longer source in their local market. Enabling government and private suppliers to effectively identify the needs based on locations.
From one species to another - the infectious cycle
The ongoing pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. The fear of contracting diseases from poultry products has caused a decline in the demand for chicken and eggs. As the H5N1 spreads in farms of Karnataka and Kerala, farmers face huge losses. Can GIS mapping help the farmers tackle this problem?
Challenge Statement: How might we find solutions to keep track of diseases that spread from livestock and poultry and help in eradicating them from the source?
Region: India, Global.
Background: After coronavirus lockdown hit consumption of chicken and eggs to a multi-year low, poultry farmers in Karnataka and Kerala are facing another problem — bird flu or, formally, the H5N1 virus.
The source is migratory birds from the east. Farmers in the two states have reportedly begun culling chickens, while the state governments have restricted supply of chicken across their borders. Bird Flu indications are found in the Mysore region of Karnataka, among small farms with 3,000-4,000 birds. In fact, farmers had found some dead migratory birds which they carried into their farms, which was the major cause of the outbreak. The flu later spread throughout the farm and infected birds from other places as well.
Normally, farmers transport 1-1.5 million birds (cocks and hens) from Karnataka to Kerala. That is how it spread to Kerala, India.
A similar case is with the spread of other diseases like Swine Flu.
Possible Intervention areas: This challenge offers opportunities to the participants to explore innovative solutions that can keep track of the geographical location of the source of poultry and livestock products.
A small chip or software can be designed that can track the movement of these animal products in each stage and can help in tracing the source in case of an outbreak so that action can be taken asap.
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