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Globe Town: Open data for sustainability website wins global award

A new website that opens up the complex world of climate change and how it relates to the individual has won a major global award for our team from the UK.  Globe-Town.org was placed third in the first international ‘Apps for Climate’ competition (#Apps4Climate) held by the World Bank presented at a ceremony in Washington DC. Competition judges included Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President of Sustainable Development.  The overall winner was Ecofacts from Argentina, and second place went to Norway’s My Climate Plan.  In the last such competition from the World Bank – Apps for Development – a team from the OKFN also won third place with Yourtopia.

Globe Town image 1Globe-Town builds heavily on the increasing amount of freely available open data online, with much of it originating from the World Bank’s open data portal which provides a rich variety of well-organized information around all aspects of sustainable development. By opening up the facts of climate change in different countries, Globe-Town shows how no one is isolated from the consequences in an interdependent world. The site also reveals how responding to climate change presents a world of opportunities to inspire individuals and entrepreneurs.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that climate change is killing 150,000 people a year. In order to tackle this challenge, we all need to know how it affects us personally and what we can do about it. Globe-Town does this by connecting the global with the local, so we can explore the risks, responsibilities and opportunities of climate change in an increasingly interconnected world.

The aim of Globe-Town is to open up our world of connections to exploration, whilst bringing home what the things we discover might mean to us personally. We hope to bring more transparency to the rich network of our connections, or, perhaps introduce people to their far-away next-door neighbours.  Globe-Town originated with my research into the web and climate change.  I’m fascinated by the potential of web technologies and openness to tackle global challenges and advance sustainable development for all;  Globe-Town is just one example of how they can contribute.  I’m really looking forward to exploring this new area at the  Sustainability Stream of the Open Knowledge Festival in Finland this September, where I’m a program planner.  The site was developed from my original concept with a team of four PhD students from the University’s Web Science Doctoral Training Centre: architect Richard Gomer, Huw Fryer, Will Fyson, Dominic Hobson & myself.  The fancy graphics were designed by Andrea Prieto.

Globe-Town is an user friendly web app where people can learn about each country’s environment, society and economy, so they can understand the challenges and opportunities that it faces in a changing world. Moreover, they can explore the connections between countries through relationships such as trade, migration or air travel. Stories can then emerge of how climate risks can be transmitted between distant countries, for instance the impact of the 2011 Thai floods on the Japanese economy. Similarly, the user can learn about shared responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions through the things we import, or opportunities to act to mitigate and to adapt, such as investing in renewable energy projects abroad. This is the first version of the app, and the team are very keen to receive feedback and ideas for version two.

We’re exploring a wide range of possibilities for the future of Globe-Town, such as enabling people to crowd-fund projects, participate in e-activism, or to contribute content so they can take action about what they discover. With ideas like these – along with the existing discussion feature – Globe-Town can go beyond exploring our existing links to forging new ones around the world. After all, we all live in the same Globe-Town.

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