To raise air quality awareness among Nairobi’s more than 4.7 million residents, digital billboards around the city live-streamed the city’s real-time air pollution.
The initiative was led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, Safaricom, Alpha and Jam, and Metropolitan Star Lite, an Out of Home (OOH) media company. The live stream provided real-time information on the air quality of fine airborne particles known as PM2.5.
The pilot project aims to engage the public by streaming real-time air pollution data to digital billboards in four locations throughout the city. Moi Avenue, University Way, Mbagathi Way, and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport are among them (JKIA).
PM2.5 is linked to serious health problems such as asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. PM2.5 exposure has also been linked to low birth weight, increased acute respiratory infections, and stroke.
“Real-time air quality monitoring will assist us in issuing health advisories as well as developing smart traffic controls to reduce congestion. “The dynamic advisories demonstrated through this collaboration will help people limit their exposure to harmful pollutants,” said Lawrence Mwangi, Nairobi County Government Assistant Director of Environment in charge of pollution control.
Approximately 3 billion people cook and heat their homes with open fires and simple stoves that burn biomass (wood, animal dung, and crop waste) and coal. Particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution is responsible for more than half of all premature deaths due to pneumonia in children under the age of five.
According to UNEP, outdoor air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause 3 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012, with low- and middle-income countries accounting for 88 percent of those deaths.
Cleaner transportation, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry, and better municipal waste management policies and investments would all help to reduce key sources of urban outdoor air pollution. Most city residents do not have access to real-time air quality data, and as a result, they are frequently unaware of the hazardous levels of air they breathe.
“We recognize that poor air quality has a disproportionate impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities,” said IQAir CEO Frank Hammes. “Through our partnering with UNEP, we can leverage real-time air quality monitoring data, machine learning, and data visualization to assist in identifying those most affected by global air pollution. The real-time visibility of the impact of air pollution on humanity, combined with the UNEP’s outreach and support, can assist governments and communities all over the world in taking actions that lead to cleaner, healthier air.”
The Nairobi air quality awareness demonstration project is the result of a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the United Nations, the private sector, academia, non-governmental, and local government organizations. The project is expected to accelerate efforts to significantly reduce pollution by changing how transportation, waste management, and other services are managed.