Apps for Climate Winners: Turning Climate Data into Life Lessons

June 28, 2012


  • Innovators from 28 countries created apps, data visualizations, curricula and games for the competition.
  • They used the World Bank's open data to educate and encourage behavior change to fight climate change.
  • The winning app teaches users about energy consumption and climate change and shows how individual actions can translate into large-scale change.

Your country’s carbon emissions are going up, and the numbers don't compare well to the rest of the world – as a nation, you're producing 4.3 times more CO2 than the average if you’re American; 1.7 times more if you’re Andorran. So what can you, as one person, do about it?

Taking even the simplest steps will make a difference, the winner of the World Bank’s Apps for Climate competition explains in a detailed, country-by-country breakdown in his web app Ecofacts. 

On June 28, the winners of the Apps for Climate competition were announced in a celebration at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  It was the end of one competition, and the start of another – at the ceremony, MTV and the World Bank-supported Connect4Climate also announced the next big global climate competition, this one focused on young singers, musicians, videographers, and photographers.

1st Place: Turning climate data into compelling lessons

Andres Martinez Quijano, the Argentinian developer who built the winner of the Apps for Climate competition, Ecofacts, said he was inspired in his youth by the book 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. By helping people understand how they’re contributing to climate change, letting them see how their country’s CO2 emissions and energy use are increasing, and then giving them simple actions to take, he said he hopes to help others better the world, too.

“The way people live in industrialized countries – their way of life causes climate change,” he said. “It isn’t the corporations. It’s how people live, what they buy and how they use energy.”

The Ecofacts app, using the World Bank’s open data, teaches users about energy consumption and climate change and shows how individual actions can translate into large-scale changes at the national level. For example, “If 50% of the houses in the United States turned off one light of 60 watts each, that would save 9.03 TWh per year, which is the output of 7.53 coal power plants, which means 8.58 million tons less of CO2 released into the atmosphere, per year.”

2nd Place: Turning policy into action

Second prize went to My Climate Plan, which allows users to create their own national plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The initial version is based upon Norway’s policies, allowing public users and politicians to see the cost and impact of each policy and to understand that it will take a mix of policies to reduce climate-changing emissions.

“A white paper takes a week to read and understand. This take 5 minutes to create a plan and see the impact,” said the app’s presenter, Henrik Lund, head of institutional relations for the Oslo-based Bellona Foundation, where Håvard Lundberg and Aleksander Johansen created the app.

3rd Place: It’s one big, connected world

Third prize went to a colorful app called Globe Town, which uses illustrations and the World Bank’s climate data to show how countries are connected globally through trade, immigration, or international assistance – and how that also connects to CO2 emissions and the impact on each country's environment, society, and economy.

“The goal was to show that we’re all part of this – we’re all connected," said Andrea Prieto, a designer from Colombia who built the project with Jack Townsend, Richard Gomer, and Dominic Hobso of the United Kingdom. 

The “popular choice” winner in the competition, picked by fans, was CC Climate for Children, a collection of interactive classroom presentations and games for teaching students about climate change, created by university student Darko Bozhinoski and Gorgi Kakasevski of Macedonia. 

" Data collected is just data. But data interpreted and visualized becomes something fundamentally more empowering. "

Rachel Kyte

Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank

Delivering knowledge

World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte – who served on the selection committee with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, World Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change Andrew Steer, Ushahidi Executive Director Juliana Rotich, and Patrick Svenburg from Microsoft – lauded the finalists’ work. The winners were chosen from 52 web apps, mobile apps, data visualizations, curricula, and games originating in 28 countries. The first place winner received $15,000, second place received $10,000, and third place and the popular choice winner each received $5,000.

“Data collected is just data. But data interpreted and visualized becomes something fundamentally more empowering,” Kyte said. “These apps have the potential to deliver data and knowledge to the very people who depend on it to understand how a changing climate will affect their lives.”

Let your voice ring out

After the finalists were announced, attention turned to the next competition. Kyte and Connect4Climate, along with MTV and Kenyan hip hop star and environmentalist Juliani, launched Voices4Climate – a global photo, video, and music video competition focused on amplifying the voices of youth.

"This competition is a great way to use the artistic talents of young people around the world to communicate on such an important issue,” said John Jackson, MTV’s vice president for social responsibility.  “MTV is very pleased to be able to encourage entries and to provide creative assistance to the winners."

“We all have within us the power to be catalysts for change,” said World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey, speaking to both competitions. “Activities like open data initiatives and the widespread use of social media by young people are showing us that we don’t always need to gather in large formal forums to get important things done. Change can begin with just one person.”