Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk, contributing to more than seven million deaths every year.
Air quality data is non-existent for many cities in Africa. Traditional air quality monitoring stations are expensive to set up and maintain, and incompatible with local infrastructure bottlenecks such as unreliable power and poor internet communication.
AirQo, founded in 2015 at Makerere University, builds low-cost air sensing devices that communicate over cellular infrastructure and are designed to withstand extreme heat and dust. Installed around cities in schools, neighborhoods and on motorbikes, they are powered by both electricity from the grid and solar to allow them to operate when power supplies are interrupted. The team uses cloud-based AI software to calibrate, analyze air particle data in real-time and predict local pollution. These insights are shared with the public and governments to drive awareness and action to improve air quality.
AirQo has so far deployed 120 sensors, and developed a data analytics dashboard to support air quality monitoring. AirQo's monitoring network is advancing air quality management for city authorities and government agencies, facilitating university research, and empowering a growing network of individual changemakers dedicated to improving air quality at the community level.
In Uganda, the data and AI-powered insights raised the profile of air quality as a national issue, contributing to development of national air quality standards and Kampala city air quality action plans. The project is now expanding to Nairobi, Accra, Lagos and other African cities.
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