Living on an island, you’re never far from a beach. Kiwis are proud of their coastlines, and rightfully so; we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. As part of the Maori tradition of Kaitiakitanga (stewardship of the earth), it’s our responsibility to ensure those beaches stay clean for future generations.
To that end, Enlighten Designs partnered with New Zealand’s Sustainable Coastlines, a charity devoted to safeguarding the country’s shores, to mobilise communities to collect data. With this information, Sustainable Coastlines aims to empower citizens to keep their beloved beaches clean for years to come.
About Sustainable Coastlines
Over two billion tonnes of solid waste is produced each year, with nearly a third of it not being managed in a manner that’s environmentally safe. New Zealand is ranked as the world’s tenth-largest producer of urban waste – nine spots ahead of the US. What’s worse is that the amount of waste is set to double by 2050.
Since its inception in 2009, Sustainable Coastlines has dedicated itself to three things: beautiful beaches, healthy waters, and inspired people. The organisation enables Kiwis to look after beaches on their own through coordinating and supporting large-scale coastal clean-up events, riparian planting and restoration activities, education programmes, public awareness campaigns, and training workshops.
If the aforementioned current waste production and management trends continue, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in natural environments by 2050. That’s the weight of 100 million blue whales (5,000 times the number of actual blue whales left on Earth).
Over the past decade, Sustainable Coastlines volunteers have collected enough trash from the shores of New Zealand and the Pacific to fill 45 shipping containers. Out of the tens of millions of items volunteers have picked up, 77 per cent are single-use plastic.
Sustainable Coastlines needed a solution that would empower the average New Zealander to take action and keep Aotearoa’s beaches clean. This solution would have to mobilise people to make a difference; that’s the only way true and lasting environmental change will take place. Moreover, it would have to be scalable and based on technologies that volunteers already use and feel comfortable with in their daily lives; otherwise, adoption rates would be low.
The Technology Partner
The Auckland-based non-profit received a grant from Microsoft to create a scientifically rigorous, citizen-enabled, data collection process. Sustainable Coastlines chose Microsoft’s cloud and Enlighten Designs as its technology partner.
Enlighten’s deep experience with data (especially with data storytelling) attracted Sustainable Coastlines. Enlighten Designs is a globally leading Power BI partner and currently has the world’s most viral and top viewed Power BI report – a visualisation developed for the 2018 European Parliamentary elections created for Politico. Enlighten's roster of globally recognized clients includes BBC, Associated Press, Microsoft US, Nascar, Recode, Curbed, and CIO.
Enlighten built a digital platform that engages and empowers ‘Citizen Scientists’ to clean-up New Zealand’s beaches with the latest Microsoft technology, based on the Azure platform. Citizen scientists are members of the public who collect and analyse data in collaboration with professional scientists.
The digital platform, known as ‘Litter Intelligence,’ incorporates the following elements:
- Data storytelling
- Power BI
‘Data storytelling’ refers to the use of information to tell a compelling story. Data alone won’t always captivate your audience; not everyone cares that much about raw numbers. Humans are hardwired for stories, so when you can use the information to weave a tale, you’re in much better shape.
Litter Intelligence illustrates how Sustainable Coastlines tells a story with the information it’s gathered. The first things visitors see are the current average litter density, the number of citizen scientists, the number of surveys completed, and how many monitoring sites there are around New Zealand. By scrolling down further, the visitor learns what actions are being taken to reduce the amount of litter in the country.
Power BI is Microsoft’s business analytics service. It allows users to create data visualisations crucial for the storytelling mentioned earlier. Thanks to Power BI, users across an organisation can access visualisations on any device, at any time.
It’s Power BI that’s responsible for the data visualisation on Litter Intelligence. This solution allows visitors to understand at a glance what Sustainable Coastlines’ volunteers have accomplished, and how much more there is left to do.
The Microsoft NZ Partner Award
On September 16, 2019, Microsoft announced the finalists for its NZ Partner Awards. Enlighten was nominated for its work on Litter Intelligence in the ‘Cloud for Good’ category. This category honours Microsoft partners who are using Microsoft’s cloud services to make New Zealand a better place.
Microsoft announced Enlighten Designs winners of this award on October 17 in Auckland. This and our Transforming Products award are recognising the solutions managed, designed, built and implemented by our incredible team here at Enlighten. They represent the drive for excellence and dedication to building beautiful digital solutions.
Enlighten’s history of using data to tell compelling stories spans over two decades. The firm occupies a prime position within the New Zealand market as a recognised leader in software development, systems integration, and website design. We’re proud to partner with Microsoft.
Microsoft has certified Enlighten as Gold status in Data Platforms and Data Analytics. Those competencies demonstrate Enlighten’s best-in-class expertise within Microsoft’s marketplace. Earning a gold competency is evidence of the deepest, most consistent commitment to a specific, in-demand, business solution area, along with the distinction of being among only one per cent of Microsoft partners worldwide that have attained this outstanding degree of proficiency. To learn more about working with us, contact us today.