Our urban lifestyles are not at all mindful of the vital importance of trees and forests. And this where digital can come to rescue. Technology can raise awareness, prompt actions, and track results. Planting trees is vital in the circular economy that we live in. The ripple effects of planting trees and stopping deforestation are probably underestimated by most of us.
The sole digital tree planting initiative that has succeeded to date to have an impact at scale, is the Ant Forest app which I have covered late last year in AntForest, an award-winning Techfin gamification app — Global Climate Action. With 500million users and over 100 million trees planted to date in suffering from deforestation northern part of China, it is a gamified app that urban Chinese citizens have adopted. With its `proof of impact` tech capability, it creates a network between the citizens offering their points towards planting trees and the workers planting the trees on the borders.
Forests are rich and diverse habitats that have traditionally supported and fed the poorest part of populations and most indigenous populations. From food, medicinal herbs for healthcare, and income from plant products. Digital can empower all these communities that strictly depend on forests. The Global Forest Watch (GFW), launched the `Forest Watcher App` which enables forest guardians to receive real-time alerts of fire alerts, illegal lumber activities and clearings, etc. Recently the app can even work offline and is used in Latin America (e.g. Brazil) and Africa (e.g. Uganda) by communities that want to protect a specific area that is vital to them.
The Philippines has been a timber-producing country, however, deforestation has become a major problem as there has been rapid depletion of their resources because of urbanization trends and illegal forest cutting activities. Even though, the Forest Watcher App has not been adopted in the Philippines, however, since last year, GForest has been deployed at scale. Gcash Forest is a white label solution of AntForest that Gcash (the Philippine super app mobile payment provider) and its partners launched (WWF and BIOFIN). They have over 3 million users engaged on the platform and their goal is to cut the number of trees lost to zero. Currently, in the Philippines, there are 52,000 trees lost daily! Creating these digital communities leads to awareness and action and traceable results that have a positive feedback loop.
A blockchain-powered initiative based in Singapore but with a global digital offering is an enabler for planting trees and protecting forests.
The Forest coin is a governance and payment token (within the partner ecosystem) with a goal to plant one tree for every person on the planet. So, the limited supply of this cryptocurrency equals our planet population, currently at 7,852,646,346. The ledger is used to verify and document a tree planting (via the ForestCoin app). The verification is done by other Forestcoin holders and thereafter the coin is minted (no energy consumption).
The first tree was planted in May 2019 in Australia and the individual earned 12.5 Forrest coins. Although all the development around the Forestcoin cryptocurrency is completed (Forestcoin App), a cryptocurrency exchange is under development and awaiting the approval of a payment licensing from MAS. Currently, there are 2,387.5 Forestcoins (circa 200 trees) minted and 300 users.
Out of Europe, we have the Trillion Tree Campaign that is a UN environmental initiative launched in 2006. The Plant-for-the-Planet app aims to connect and inspire individuals and Tree planting organizations all over the world to plant 1 trillion trees. Users can plant trees and register them; they can donate funds to tree planting organizations etc. As of Sep 20th, the app has recorded 13.48 Billion trees planted.
The role of trees and forests in our life is not debatable. The role of Digital in engaging us is also indisputable. We just need more scalable green digital lifestyle solutions. This will create impact with global inclusion around SDGs and anything that matters for sustainable life on a planet that is heading towards 9 trillion people.
In April 2020, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE) a research university in Beijing, and the Green Digital Finance Alliance (GDFA) conducted a survey on Alipay digital lifestyle platforms. The aim was to explore whether the Chinese users of Ant Forest would be interested in engaging in the protection of the world’s second-largest rainforest, outside of China. The results were positive, showing that 22% of the surveyed Alipay Ant Forest users were interested in helping to restore rainforest habitats.
More interestingly, the survey shows that digital users are always interested in novel engagement. This aspect should be taken advantage of from digital designers and used for socially beneficial purposes — Inclusion, equality, environment etc. The trick for scalable green digital lifestyle solutions is the proof of impact to the users. Instant proof of the impact of our actions and our engagement, like the ForestCoin design or Gcash, is the secret sauce. The study also shows that women care a lot about the social networking aspect of these digital communities; whereas men are motivated by competition. For both groups, proof of long-term real value is paramount.
Digital inclusion actually works. Digital communities with common goals, change behaviors. I keep on my radar not only the trees planted out of these apps, and their tree planting goals, but also the number of users engaged around this purpose.
Digital communities with a common social goal is an example of genuine inclusion with impact powered by technology.