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Digital technologies are increasingly being deployed to address the pressing environmental challenges we face today. Using strategies to collaborate, share data, cut out middlemen and manufacture locally, DSI communities are fostering a sustainability approach that is based on open instead of proprietary technologies.
Why this cluster?
Action to fight climate change and its socio-economic effects is not only receiving increased attention from policymakers, but also from concerned citizens. Bottom-up initiatives seek to alleviate negative environmental impacts and come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from renewable energy cooperatives and car sharing services to preventing food waste and measuring air quality by citizens.
In many cases, these initiatives use technological solutions to bring about social and environmental change. But more importantly, internet technologies help social and environmental change to be explored by a larger and more diverse crowd - which is possibly the core mission of DSI. Succeeding in opening up digital development for the wider public is crucial to fostering commitment to sustainability. When addressed as citizens instead of consumers, and given true agency in the design of sustainability strategies, people’s behaviours change and new lifestyles emerge. In short, the democratisation of sustainability helps make ecological strategies deeper, effective, and lasting.
What is happening in the cluster?
Within the environmental cluster, there are multiple themes around which there is a lot of DSI activity, such as community energy, food chains, air quality, and the circular economy. Initiatives that aim to use digital innovation for achieving social and environmental goals employ a variety of strategies, including, among others, environmental collaborative monitoring, comparing environmental performance, exchanging knowledge and tips, organising data-driven campaigns and collaborations, developing marketplaces for sharing or trading of goods and services, and designing globally and manufacturing locally. In DSI projects, several of these strategies are often combined.
Technologies frequently used to implement DSI strategies are web platforms, sensors, and making and digital fabrication tools Online platforms can serve a variety of purposes and strategies, connecting people to facilitate the exchange of ideas, knowledge, goods, or services; to compare behaviour or performance; or to coordinate tasks. The large-scale use of sensors and fab technologies is often enabled through such online platforms, providing users with access to open data collected through sensors or to open source digital fabrication tools.
Unfolding technological trends and developments can act as a catalyst for the emergence and maturing of innovations within the field of DSI. They may lead to new ways and units of exchanging and sharing data (such as through the use of blockchain technology), renewed design protocols (through availability of open data and hardware platforms such as Arduino), tailored communication environments (widespread use of smartphone applications and gamification strategies), or renewed procedures for obtaining required funding (for example through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding).
What we're doing
DSI4EU aims to grow and scale the impact of DSI by connecting people and organisations active in the field, exploring their needs and challenges, and informing policy accordingly.
Waag facilitates peer learning across the environmental cluster by organising four different kinds of activities. First of all, we’re reaching out to key European players in the cluster whose ideas and actions strongly represent what DSI stands for. In June and July 2018, we’ll be setting up the cluster through talks and webinars with the likes of Open Source Circular Economy (for circular economy), REScoop (for community energy) and Luftdaten.info (for air quality). Following this, we’ll host a series of sessions in Amsterdam between September and January, focusing on how DSI can be used to tackle environmental challenges and climate change an improve food systems. Through these and other events, we also hope to involve initiatives from across the Netherlands.
By engaging with players active on a variety of levels we hope to learn about the different challenges and opportunities DSI initiatives face so as to meaningfully inform European, national, and local policymaking.
Getting in touch
Waag operates at the intersection of science, technology and the arts, focusing on technology as an instrument of social change, and guided by the values of fairness, openness and inclusivity. Visit us at https://waag.org/dsi4eu to get in touch.