UNDP CIRDA & Brown Institute hackathon

The Brown Institute for Media Innovation is collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme on its Climate Information for Resilient Development in Africa (CIDRA) project.

The project has focused on investing in Climate Information (CI) and Early Warning Systems (EWS) for extreme weather events, driven by climate change. The approach has been two fold -- investing in weather forecast hardware and infrastructure for national meteorological services and buying meteorological information products from private providers.

Investment is taking place over a four year term across 11 Sub-Saharan countries - Benin; Burkina Faso; Ethiopia; The Gambia; Liberia; Malawi; Sao Tome and Principe; Sierra Leone; Tanzania; Uganda; and Zambia. Although the projects are at varying stages of completion, to date one thing is clear.

Although many of the countries have growing amounts of data at their fingertips, the next challenge is effectively communicating that information to the public and the citizens who need the accurate weather information and early warning systems the most.

Weather forecasts in many Sub-Saharan african countries are not widely trusted. It can take a long time for information to reach communities, with a lag of up to four days in some cases. In addition when the information reaches the communities it can be unreliable or not geographically specific enough to meet the needs of communities that rely heavily on agriculture.

The aim of the hackathon is to create tools to deliver accurate and timely weather information to the public. Developers travelled to Livingstone, Zambia from across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the US and have been plunged into a crash course in the current status of meteorological services in the 11 project countries. The teams have a range of meteorological and country experts to call on, to guide them on everything from understanding what data they can access to better tailoring their tools to their target audience.

Over 24 hours the developers, led by the Brown Institute team and Joost Hoedjes from the UNDP CIRDA team, are focusing on creating tools to inform the public about weather patterns and events. The tools should inform citizens and enable them to plan as weather patterns change, driven by climate change. The combination of the investment and tools should ultimately improving livelihoods and save lives in the project countries.