This blog was guest-written by Erin Yamaoka, a Technical Account Manager at TaroWorks. 

The Global Problem

Global warming remains one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today. Guardians of the planet remain steadfast in their attempt to address this problem head on. However, the immense scale will require global coordination and innovation beyond the traditional nonprofit and government agency channels.

The advent of the social enterprise has been one such innovation, allowing the private sector to play an increasing role in helping to address many of these issues in new ways.

Today, over 2,000 B Corporations in 50 countries across 130 industries are making a go of it. While most social enterprises have a thorough understanding of how their business can help or hurt the environment, a subset of these companies make the science and practice of addressing environmental challenges the core of their business.

Unsurprisingly, many of these agencies are using data and the power of technology to drive their missions forward.

One example is WaterSmart in San Francisco, California. This organization uses cloud computing to compile utility meter data and better communicate with residential customers about their water usage. Water service partners also receive analytics about consumption habits and customer program participation, which leads to more efficient water usage and economic savings for the customers.

Another California-born company, PastureMap, developed ranch management software to map livestock grazing patterns and collect vital herd data via a mobile application. This helps ranchers identify the grazing practices that are most successful for their land and creates a cross-farmer dataset that can help reverse climate change by allowing for the regeneration of grasslands and soils.

The Problem within the Problem

It remains an unfortunate fact that the countries that often contribute the least to climate change remain the most vulnerable to its impact. Verisk Maplecroft’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index features comparable risk data for 198 countries on 48 separate issues, including climate change vulnerability, ecosystem services, greenhouse gas emissions, natural hazards, and environmental regulation.

In the Extreme Risk Category are countries such as Chad, Bangladesh, Niger, Haiti and the Central African Republic. With the most at stake, these nations will need to play an active role in the struggle against climate change. These are the communities that should have the strongest voices and the richest data sources for rallying humanity around this global problem.

Unfortunately, many of the countries in the Extreme Risk category for climate change vulnerability also top another list: countries with the lowest internet penetration rates. For instance, the percentage of the population with internet access in Chad, Bangladesh, and Niger are 2.7%, 14.4%, and 2.22% respectively.

So, how can social enterprises both serve and leverage the agency of a disconnected client community?  How can those most vulnerable to climate change play an active role in the fight against it, using data and the power of cloud computing?

Addressing the Problem within the Problem

This is the problem (within the problem) that together, with our customers, we try to solve at TaroWorks. Our for-profit social enterprise is a technology company that was incubated at Grameen Foundation, one of Cisco’s community partners. At TaroWorks, we know that data is just as important for organizations operating in the “last mile” as it is in the first.

Our clients use TaroWorks to do anything from deploying financial literacy in the arid and semi-arid lands of northern Kenya to generating networks of entrepreneurs in the waste management sector in Cambodia.

Clean energy clients are also using our technology to manage their field operations, working in places with no access to the network. One of our customers, Solar Sister, combines the environmental goal of promoting clean energy use with the humanitarian mission of raising economic standards in developing countries.

With help from TaroWorks’ mobile app and cloud-hosted database, Solar Sister collects sales information and manages inventory movements to help women sell solar lighting in rural Uganda, Nigeria, and Tanzania.  The women entrepreneurs use these proceeds to support their families.

Sistema Biobolsa is a Latin America-focused social enterprise and TaroWorks customer whose vision is to “create value from waste with their biodigester systems.” Farmers use the biodigesters to convert farm waste into organic fertilizer.

This natural energy can replace wood or gas, which saves farmers money and is better for the environment. Sistema’s field teams use TaroWorks’ mobile application as an offline relationship system to manage installations and maintain the biodigesters on customer farms.

Creating balanced organizations to protect our planet and our humanity is an ongoing battle. Data is vital to any organization to achieve complex and competing goals. We’re going to need an increasing army of people with digital skills and creativity to develop inclusive technologies to solve the world’s toughest problems, like climate change.

Take your first step in joining us by registering today for our session in the Women Rock-IT Cisco TV series, “Global Problem Solvers Who are Guardians of Our Planet.”


Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco