Aiming to combat the issue of garbage accumulation, the waste management company Environ-Adapt in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and the service provider GIZ Egypt established an application to help people locate garbage and report it to the waste collection company. After it is removed, a picture of the clean spot is sent for confirmation.
Mostafa Khairat, Environ-Adapt’s CEO along with Operations Director Amr Fathi and Marketing Director Hussein Barrada worked on developing the user-friendly application to engage the residents in the waste management process and connect them to the involved entities. We reached out to them to know more about the status of the application so far.
- What inspired you to start this project?
It all started when we realized that the main problem in waste management was the waste collection. This problem affected the residents of the area and the collection companies. Previously the performance of the collection companies was assessed using handwritten reports done by the governmental monitoring bodies. We decided to digitize this process by replacing the handwritten report with waste photos. The next logical step was to include the residence through a user friendly functional application Dawar.
- Why do you think littering and garbage accumulation are prominent in Egypt?
We think that the primary problem is the lack of an efficient waste collection system that involves synchronization between the residents, the formal and the informal sectors.
- Logistically, how do you guarantee that the waste collection company goes to collect the garbage after sending the pictures?
Training the relevant government bodies to use the application is the first step to ensure the success of the process. This is followed by another phase, which is the use of the waste management system between the different government bodies. The last phase is introducing the residents through the use of the user application.
Logistically the picture is automatically sent (based on the GPS location) to the responsible waste collection authority. Once the collection is made and a picture is taken, the monitoring body, in the case of Maadi, the Ministry of Environment, validates the after picture before it is sent back to the user.
- How efficient has the application been in reporting so far? And how many users are using it?
At first when Dawar went viral, we were struggling with all the pictures coming in on an hourly basis. It received over 2000 pictures in the first few weeks and it was difficult to manage the process in a good time-frame. However, this has been very useful to us because it helped us step up our game and we are now proud to say that we have solved all reports to date and are able to close reports within a 48 hours from the time we receive it. The application so far has been extremely successful. We have over 15k downloads and growing.
- Your application follows the bottom-up community development approach. Don’t you think the approach is limited with the need to develop a top-down approach? In other words, do you think the issue of littering could be more efficiently handled if the Ministry of Environment imposes fines, or installs a system of collecting garbage without solely depending on the citizens to find it?
The process of waste collection is one that involves several entities and roles. The Ministry of Environment’s role is to act as a monitoring body on the collection entities. To improve the waste collection system, we have to work with all the bodies that are involved in the waste cycle, starting with the waste producers such as the residents, commercial outlets, and industrial entities to the collection companies, Cairo Governorate, Ministry of Environment and the informal sector. We are trying to connect all these bodies through a common waste management system so that any solution proposed involves everyone in the waste cycle.
- What are the challenges you have been facing to first establish the application and to keep it running?
The challenge in the beginning was to create a user-friendly application that was user friendly. We also needed to ensure that all the waste pictures sent to us are resolved to maintain the credibility of the application. Yet, our main challenge is to find ways to deal with the lack of environmental awareness.
- The application works in Maadi, targeting people with technological awareness. Yet, are you planning to accommodate it later with areas with greater garbage problems especially slums and unplanned districts? If so, how?
Smart phones are becoming cheaper by the day and there are more people using mobile applications in their everyday lives. Technological awareness is not our concern rather it is making sure that the system and all bodies involved are ready when we roll out in a new area.
- What are your future expectations for the application? And how will you determine the time of expansion to the rest of Cairo?
We are planning to expand in other districts in Cairo this year. Cairo Governorate and the Ministry of Environment determine the time and area of expansion. However, we can recommend certain districts that we think are better based on smart phone penetration and demand on Dawar according to the area’s downloads.
Dawar Application is available on the app store and google play. It is currently working in Maadi and Torra for an experimental phase until expansion.