World Environment Day

A day of listening, sharing and telling OpenAQ’s story

In this update:

As many of you know, today is World Environment Day. Each year there is a theme, which this year is ecosystem restoration. This theme is a timely one when we think about the human health and environmental burdens of air pollution, and the importance of the work we are doing together to address these challenges and enable solutions through air quality data and community engagement. At the same time, while the exact themes and framing of this day may change each year, the importance of global sustainable solutions that are well-coordinated, well-communicated, participatory and relevant to local actors is something that remains true each and every year, and reflects what we do at OpenAQ in our fight against air inequality and where we are going.

With this in mind, we are taking this day as an opportunity to share with you how the results and learnings from our 2021 community survey and stakeholder engagement are being reflected in the future direction of OpenAQ. We are on an important (and we hope) shared mission to truly democratize access to air quality data and information to enable action to fight air pollution. We want to continue to find new ways to make sure that the air quality data we host and the tools and toolkits we develop are relevant to the needs of our community both now and in the future. And we want to hear what you think!

We are also taking this day as an opportunity to kick off a series of stories highlighting the work of OpenAQ’s five Community Ambassadors, global air quality advocates who are actively working in their communities on key air quality challenges and which OpenAQ is supporting throughout a 10-month train-the-trainer program. We invite you to check out the first story and video featuring Farah Kazi who is based in Mumbai and leads campaigns with Waatavaran to fight for #CleanAirForAll in India’s Maharashtra region.

Source: Waatavaran

Building on the success and learnings from our first GivingTuesday Campaign, we are also launching our annual campaign that allows folks to support OpenAQ’s growth by contributing financially to our organization (in addition to all the awesome volunteer community contributions and engagement which we love and which we very much welcome). For a limited time only, we are selling some cool new OpenAQ t-shirts, which will also help support our work. You can learn more, contribute and order your t-shirt (or 10) via our new giving page here.

Below is a summary of some of the key lessons learned from our most recent Community Survey

  • Data gaps continues to be an issue, especially in the Global South, specifically in parts of Africa and Central Asia
  • While data gaps remain significant, access to data and coordination of using data is a challenge, particularly among communities most affected by air pollution
  • OpenAQ must continue to make space and amplify diversity in the air quality ecosystem, including gender and people of color, as well find ways to engage with both youth and older adults, students and journalists
  • While we have seen an increase in and use of number of tools available on the platform, there is greater opportunity for use of these tools, and also for the development of new tools that will help to make the air quality data we host more accessible
  • Platform requests
  • Tools for understandings and using data including: data quality, calibration and metadata
  • Opportunities for being able to see different types of data and new visualizations (e.g. meteorological and other geospatial data)
  • More hyperlocal data and additional scale of data

Incorporating feedback

Our survey and ongoing stakeholder engagement has provided important feedback as we think about our future direction. With this in mind, we want to share some of the ways we are incorporating this feedback to reflect needs and priorities of our community. We don’t think that what we are sharing will be a surprise, but we do want to hear your thoughts and provide the opportunity for feedback (more on that in a bit). Below is a summary of both how we are framing our future work, as well as some of the specific projects we are working on in the coming months.

Introducing OpenAQ’s ACT Framework

While there are many ways to think about our work, we want to share a framing that we think captures our approach to air quality data and community.

Our ACT framework means that we are focusing our strategy on data Access, Coverage and Transparency

Access

Use our programmatic and technical engagement to:

  • break down barriers to data (e.g. technical knowledge, socioeconomic status, local and global)
  • to drive well-coordinated and effective partnerships, data usage and action among a wide and growing coalition of local and global actors. These actors include: governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, media and the often marginalized communities and individuals most affected by air pollution.

Coverage

Continue to add new air quality data sources and tools, incorporating new cutting-edge technologies that fill in data gaps

Transparency

Advocate for and set the example for open data as key to developing solutions to air pollution

A renewed focus on Data Access

Listening to our survey results we want to keep building and sharing the tools, toolkits and information that allow for a greater number of people to be able to access and use air quality data in their fight for clean air.

Based on feedback, we are currently focused on the development of several new tools that will fulfill this goal including a co-location toolkit and versioning tool, which will provide greater opportunity for using data and understanding different types of attributes (metadata) such as QA/QC conducted, and new data comparisons and calibrations that may be of interest to air quality advocates. We will also be looking at opportunities for geospatial overlays to make sure that the searchability and comparability of data that we host can be seen in the context of related health and other data types and information that we don’t host ourselves on our platform, but are important for those looking to use air quality data to develop solutions to air pollution.

Our focus on access also means a continued focus on serving the needs of the marginalized communities most affected by air pollution, making sure that we are considering a lens that includes gender and people of color in our work and in our organization, including work with Environmental Justice communities. Our recently launched Ambassador Program provides an opportunity to expand our thinking on this front, and develop new opportunities for local feedback and engagement.

Additional coverage

We continue to build on the success of our recent low-cost sensor pilot and look forward to partnering with additional data providers. As the largest open source, open data platform for air quality data, we are currently hosting over 4 Billion data points from 120 countries, numbers that will continue to grow! As we add AQ data from new partners, we look forward to sharing a number of exciting developments with the community. Should you be interested in adding low cost sensor data (or any air quality data sources) to our platform, please complete the following form, and we will be in touch.

Transparency as key

Finally, our work advocating for data transparency continues. We feel strongly that having standardized air quality data that is open and available to everyone without financial barriers is a key condition for developing policy and cross-sector solutions to air pollution that are participatory and accountable to stakeholders.

Your Feedback

We are excited to be able to share with you some of our updates, as well what we are hearing and thinking for the future. We definitely would appreciate any feedback.

Do feel free to reach out to us anytime on Slack, or by email.

As we develop new tools and toolkits, we also would love to have you participate in new opportunities for user feedback. Again, we want to make sure that what we design undergoes community testing so that we can continue to improve and iterate on our platform enhancements. Should you be interested in participating in a user testing group, please send a note to dev@openaq.org and we will add you to our Slack Group.

Thanks for your ongoing engagement and we look forward to hearing from you and to sharing future updates!

We're making an open, real-time air quality data hub because we think it'll let people do amazing things. Want to help out? Find us at openaq.org.