Innovating for Nature: How the mobile industry is tackling biodiversity loss  

International Day for Biological Diversity, marked on 22 May, celebrates the rich biodiversity of our planet. This year’s theme, “Be Part of the Plan”, is a call to action for all stakeholders to reflect on their roles in halting and reversing biodiversity loss by supporting the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This blog explores how the mobile industry is tackling biodiversity loss through innovation, expertise, and strategic partnerships. 

The accelerating loss of nature is threatening ecosystems, species, and the very fabric of life on Earth. As habitats disappear and biodiversity declines, the urgency to find innovative solutions grows ever more critical.  

Later this year, key players in the global biodiversity movement will come together in Cali, Colombia at the Convention of Biological Diversity COP16 to discuss progress towards national implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). While it is primarily governments who have seats at the negotiation table, there is widespread recognition that the GBF will not succeed without the private sector playing their part. 

Businesses have both a responsibility and an economic incentive to ensure that they step up in efforts needed to tackle the ever-growing nature crisis. With new nature-related reporting requirements coming into effect in 20241, biodiversity is rapidly rising up the agenda for the private sector.   

Digital Solutions for Biodiversity: Innovations from the mobile industry 

The mobile industry, with its cutting-edge technology and vast reach, holds significant potential to combat biodiversity loss. By harnessing the power of connectivity, data analytics, and tech innovation, the mobile industry can play a pivotal role in improving the monitoring of ecosystems, empowering communities with better access to data, and driving concrete commitments to preserve and restore the planet’s natural wealth. 

But what does this innovation look like in practice? And what challenges do mobile operators face in getting nature projects off the ground? These were the question in focus during a webinar hosted by the GSMA ClimateTech programme on May 16th 2024.  

In the session, we heard first-hand from mobile operators who have created high-impact digital solutions helping nature and communities. This included showcases from the following mobile operators: 

Indosat ooredoo hutchison company logo.

Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison’s (IOH) innovative project to digitise mangrove conservation in North Kalimantan, Indonesia. Steve Saerang, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, demonstrated how IOH provides Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to promote more sustainable shrimp farming practices. These sensors allow farmers to collect data on water quality to improve pond productivity.

The project is an interesting example of how such initiatives can address the triple bottom line – in this case by safeguarding mangroves, improving farmers’ livelihoods, and showcasing the potential of IOH’s IoT services which supports the overall business needs. 

Huawei’s Tech4Nature initiative, launched in 2020 in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Zeng Ming, Project Manager for TECH4ALL, explained how the Tech4Nature programme uses digital technology to promote the effective conservation and management of more than 300 protected areas worldwide on the IUCN Green List. This has included leveraging a range of Huawei and its partners’ technologies, from acoustics and visual data to wired and wireless connections, cloud and AI services. This has helped to improve the management of protected areas, develop unique benchmarking tools that use digital technology to track progress, as well as improve the monitoring and assessment of protected areas.

Finally, we heard about Vodafone’s AI-driven ‘m-Twiga’ solution, designed to tackle human-wildlife conflict. Joe Griffin, Senior Sustainable Business Manager, explained how the project was born from a collaboration between technology and conservation experts in Vodafone, Safaricom and WWF.

Using infra-red cameras and AI software, the m-Twiga system is being developed to detect and identify various predator species and send an SMS to alert nearby communities. While m-Twiga is still in early proof of concept stages, it presents a compelling case for the involvement of mobile network operators in solving pressing conservation issues.

Watch the video below to hear from the mobile operators directly. 

What next for the mobile industry? 

The webinar highlighted the mobile industry’s ambitious plans to expand its role in addressing the biodiversity crisis. While previously, most initiatives fell under philanthropic or sustainability efforts, there is a growing recognition that nature is now a business-critical topic. 

The GSMA ClimateTech programme’s latest research report, The Nature Tech Nexus: Bridging Biodiversity and Business, explores key barriers and drivers of action for the mobile sector. It features case studies of mobile operator initiatives across the Global South, demonstrating the sector’s potential to transform business operations to be nature positive. This includes scaling existing biodiversity solutions and acting as a launching customer or investor in nature tech. 

As part of the industry’s commitment to biodiversity, a project group of 40 global mobile network operators has formed under the GSMA. It was established to take a consistent approach to understanding and analysing what biodiversity means for the mobile industry and what risks and opportunities should be considered when investigating the sector’s impacts. In doing so, the mobile industry aims to make significant strides in integrating biodiversity commitments into core business strategies, driving meaningful change for a more sustainable future. 

Woman in a hat examining a fruit while using a smartphone in an agricultural setting.

This initiative was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Sida does not necessarily share the views expressed in this material. Responsibility for its content rests entirely with the author.