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ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION

Cleantech: Mobile app from North Macedonia uses open data for clean air

Gorjan Jovanovski, the creator of the "AirCare" app, is an active campaigner for cleaner environment. Photo: personal archive

Mobile app “AirCare” (МојВоздух) recently won first place at the World Summit Awards 2020 in the “Environment and Green Energy” category. The app is created by Gorjan Jovanovski from North Macedonia and combines his two passions – technology and ecology. Jovanovski was voted European Young Entrepreneur last year and has won over 20 national and international awards.

AirCare” measures the quality of the air we breathe. Despite the technological achievement behind it, the app is an excellent example of using open data to contribute to society. How come? It encourages activism and contributes significantly to raising awareness about protecting the environment.

Winning in competition with 600 ideas

“AirCare” creator Gorjan Jovanovski; photo: personal archive

The organisation, founded by the UN, distinguishes ideas that successfully meet two objectives – commitment to achieving the UN sustainable development goals and problem solving in society through smart solutions. Evaluated by an international panel of experts – a group with a unique background and diversity – the 40 WSA candidates were tested for sustainability, purpose, technical functionalities, and financial sustainability.

How AirCare came to life

“AirCare” started as a simple web page with relatively limited information and some advice – intended to test the concept.  The app was created in 2015 in North Macedonia and became popular in Serbia in 2019, as the country is also struggling with pollution. Today, “ArCare” is available in more than 45 markets worldwide, with over half a million downloads and 100,000 active users. It provides access to satellite data, statistics, calendars, maps, and lots of other features. Information is collected from several main sources: government measurements, air pollution stations, volunteer measuring stations, and data from satellite measuring stations, such as those operated by the European Space Agency and NASA.

+++Innovations in North Macedonia cast ray of light on COVID 19 pandemic aftermaths+++

Evolution

In 2019 Gorjan completely redesigned “AirCare”, giving it a more user-friendly interface that can help users better understand pollution. He also introduced the persona “Breezy” (Воздушко) hoping to reach and educate younger audiences about pollution and the importance of clean air.

“”AirCare” has three main goals: to inform, to educate and to encourage action. So far, we have managed to inform citizens quite well about pollution, and at least partially educate them. The main focus of “AirCare” in the following period, apart from the expansion, will be to encourage action among citizens through various innovative unique approaches”, Jovanovski told Trending Topics SEE. One example of that is the “Community” section of the app, where users can find information on events, such as workshops, protests about environment protection, and other initiatives.

In the future, “AirCare” will strive to introduce even more educational content and to inspire action, encouraging citizens to take matters into their own hands and protect the environment.

The tech behind

Since its redesign, AirCare 7.0 is fully coded into Flutter – Google’s new framework. It is similar to React Native, allowing one codebase to get applications on multiple platforms, such as Android, iOS, and Windows, Mac & Web. This makes the process of introducing new features much easier, allowing straightforward access to the code for potential platform-specific changes. Gorjan estimates that the code size of AirCare has dropped by 60% since its transfer on Flutter.

“AirCare” is the highest-rated air quality app on the App Store and Play Stories. It is available for all Android, Huawei and iOS devices as a free app. Its PRO version, which unlocks additional possibilities for monitoring air pollution, is free for all Macedonian citizens as a gift from the AirCare team to their country.

Recycle, volunteer, contribute

Jon Tyson on ©Unsplash

Remember: Any waste that ends up in a landfill is burned to make room for more. We all breathe the toxic fumes and pollution from the flames. This is the opening line of Recikliram.mk – a website that educates and offers useful tips on recycling.

“AirCare” is not the only platform Gorjan has been working on. Having extensive know-how and experience in technology, he uses his skills to give community actions a voice, educate and inspire positive social change.

The website volontiraj.mk is another example of his work. It aims to encourage volunteering by connecting organizations with interested parties. It is a directory of 84 volunteer organizations with 14 open positions and 154 submitted applications.

A bigger picture

Alexander Tsang on ©Unsplash

Pollution was evident in North Macedonia long before “AirCare” was created. However, the app helped raise social awareness of the problem. As air pollution data became public, environment protection moved up on the priority lists of the civil sector, the citizens, and therefore pushed institutions into action.  While some action is being taken, there still seems to be a lack of a systematic and consistent approach.

“There is always time for activism. A better society will not magically be created. And it will not be born out of Facebook discussions. We need to act, constantly stay informed, educate others and be a living example that change is possible. If we all adopt this responsibility, we can achieve anything together”, says Gorjan.

It’s up to you!

Gorjan strongly believes that his app can unite people and make them realize that together they have the power to change the world.

From changing personal habits – riding a bicycle, recycling, collecting the garbage in front of your home – to lobbying and pressuring authorities to make a greater effort to ensure our constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment – we can all make a difference.

Private companies should also get involved. The bigger the company, the more it can do for its own community. And helping does not always entail financial investment. Big corporations can make a great impact by reorganizing their own work, initiating eco-actions and raising awareness amongst their own employees.

“Imagine if every company did that, what would our cities look like?” adds Gorjan.

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