Saturday, March 07, 2015

How US Embassy Tweeted Beijing's Air Quality Data (Wired)

This is a feature article in WIRED magazine.

When the US Embassy in Beijing started tweeting data from an air-quality monitor, no one could have anticipated its far-reaching consequences: It triggered profound change in China’s environmental policy, advanced air-quality science in some of the world’s most polluted cities, and prompted similar efforts in neighboring countries.

Real time air quality index in Beijing

As the former Regional Strategic Advisor for USAID-Asia, I have seen first-hand that doing international development is incredibly difficult. Billions of dollars are spent annually with at best mixed results and, even with the best intentions, the money often fails to move the needle. That is why I was so inspired by the story of the US embassy’s low-cost, high-impact development project. They tapped into the transformative power of democratized data, and without even intending to, managed to achieve actual change.

Air quality in cities across the world

Here’s how it happened.

In 2008, everyone knew Beijing was polluted, but we didn’t know how much. That year, the US Embassy in Beijing installed a rooftop air-quality monitor that cost the team about as much as a nice car. The device began automatically tweeting out data every hour to inform US citizens of the pollution’s severity (@beijingair).

Read the full article @ WIRED

1 comment:

Rhen Nicey said...

As awareness of air quality concerns increases, primarily because of media coverage and the advice of allergists, homeowners are increasingly choosing to test their indoor air for allergens and contaminants. This trend is mostly positive, because it often leads to actions that improve indoor air quality.