Challenge: Healthy Environment

Open Data South Africa (March - August 2018)

The air you breathe and water you drink are affected by pollution from many different sources. We want to find new ways for using data to better understand our environment, and enable healthier living.

The Open Data South Africa project is collaborating with the Department of Environmental Affairs in hosting a series of training and hackathon events to explore new uses of air quality data and better ways to monitor air quality issues. See below for more information on activities and resources.

The new South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) captures and visualises data from a large number of monitoring stations across the country. You can also view emissions license information for individual industry on the South African Atmospheric Emission Licensing and Inventory Portal (SAAELIP). And you can view online versions relevant national air quality legislation and regulations on SAFLII and at a local level for some cities on OpenByLaws.

How is air quality monitored and data collected?

Air quality is monitored through government-managed air quality monitoring stations, industry and by citizens.

For government, the Department of Environmental Affairs, provinces, metros and district municipalities have setup air quality monitoring stations in most regions of South Africa. These stations track pollution due to harmful gases and particles such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) from certain industries and particulate matter (PM) from burning various materials for electricity, heating and cooking. The data from the monitoring stations is routed to the SAAQIS platform as 'Level 1' raw data. SAAQIS processes errors to generate 'Level 2' data which is shown on the site.

Challenge activities

24 March - Soshanguve Hackathon

What is it?

A hackathon was held on 24 March 2018 on this topic: How can local communities affected by pollution better understand their living environment using air quality data and tools?

Key points

  • A joint event by Department of Environmental Affairs and Open Data South Africa

  • Held at TUT Soshanguve

  • Over 50 students participated

  • Worked with SAAQIS datasets

Why is it important?

Over 50 students, young developers and entrepreneurs participated in the hackathon. The students formed into 10 teams and worked on a range of project ideas, from mobile applications to alert users about unhealthy air quality levels in their town to low-cost Arduino-based air quality monitoring stations with a personal web-based dashboard.

This hackathon introduced students involved in computer systems to air quality issues and related data. It was also an opportunity for the DEA and South African Weather Service (SAWS) team to see new ideas from students on how air quality can be managed using data provided through the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS).

How can it be accessed and used?

All the resources from the hackathon are available in the drive folder. Content includes:

  • The hackathon 2-page briefing document

  • Selected air quality data sets from monitoring stations near the event (Bodibeng in Soshanguve) and elsewhere in South Africa (Emalahleni Witbank).

  • National annual air quality reports which provide aggregated analysis of air quality across various priority sites in South Africa

22-23 May - Joburg TrainUp

What is it?

A two-day training was held on 22-23 May 2018 in Joburg to develop data stories around air quality.

Key points

  • A joint event by TrainUp and Open Data South Africa

  • Held at Tshimologong Precinct in Braamfontein, Joburg

  • Participants included entrepreneurs, developers and civil society

  • Worked with SAAQIS datasets

Why is it important?

The event focused on the Package and Present content from the TrainUp curriculum, which aims to equip participants with skills for visualising data and incorporating this into a data story. Although many people are familiar with data in spreadsheets and can create graphs or statistical analyses, it is important to understand how different audiences may interpret different forms of evidence or visualisations. This will affect what kind of visual content you product and what data story you tell.

In this TrainUp, participants worked with data from the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) which was extracted and prepared for the training.

How can it be accessed and used?

Resources from the TrainUp are available in the drive folder. Content includes:

  • Training Resources and Exercises document with links to useful tools

  • Cleaned and prepared air quality datasets

15-16 June - Emalahleni Hackathon

What is it?

A hackathon was held on 15-16 June 2018 on this topic: How can residents of Emalahleni better understand and monitor air quality for a healthier environment?

Key points

  • A joint event by Department of Environmental Affairs and Open Data South Africa

  • Held at TUT Emalahleni

  • Over 35 students and civil society participated

  • Working with SAAQIS, SAAELIP tools

Why is it important?

This hackathon will introduce students involved in computer systems to air quality issues and related data, and will connect civil society groups involved in air quality issues with data and technology students. It is an opportunity for the DEA and South African Weather Service (SAWS) team to see new ideas from students and civil society groups on how air quality can be managed using data provided through SAAQIS and SAAELIP.

How can it be accessed and used?

All the resources from the hackathon are available in the drive folder and other locations noted below. Content includes:

  • The hackathon 2-page briefing document and programme

  • Selected air quality data sets from monitoring stations including Witbank Emalahleni, Secunda and Middleburg.

  • National annual air quality reports which provide aggregated analysis of air quality across various priority sites in South Africa

  • SAAELIP emissions license data for Mpumalanga can be accessed here

  • List of activities regulation with limits on emissions per industry can be accessed here

  • A comprehensive list of legislation and regulations related to the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act which can be accessed on the CER site here.

Data resources

South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS)

The new South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) captures and visualises data from a large number of monitoring stations across the country.

South African Atmospheric Emission Licensing and Inventory Portal (SAAELIP)

You can view emissions license information for individual industry on the South African Atmospheric Emission Licensing and Inventory Portal (SAAELIP).

Air quality legislation and regulations

You can review relevant national air quality legislation on the CER site and at a local level for some cities on OpenByLaws.