Environmental news site InfoAmazonia, which pioneered using satellite data for reporting, is adding a new source to its coverage: observations from the ground.
The site will gather and share information from people living and working in the Amazon, including “indigenous communities, researchers, NGOs, students and engaged citizens acting on social media,” said Brazil-based data journalist Gustavo Faleiros, who founded the site. These reports will show how “data from satellites in the sky relates to the reality on the ground.”
“The perspective from human observation [will add] to the precision of the data provided by satellite,” said Faleiros, who leads InfoAmazonia as part of his ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship. “We believe that bringing citizen information to the platform will add depth and context to data we obtain by remote sensing.”
For example, when InfoAmazonia updates its map of deforestation in the region with fresh satellite data, communities in the affected regions can verify the new information and help explain it.
“Satellites do see a lot of things, but they do not tell you the reasons why an area of forest has been cleared,” Faleiros said. Is it “now being used for cattle ranching or mining? You can guess based on your experience, but the real story, the characters involved, the human dimension will emerge from the ground reporting.”
To make it happen, InfoAmazonia is partnering with NGOs in the nine countries of the Amazon rainforest region. The crowdsourcing initiative has financial support from the Avina and Skoll foundations. Together, they are donating US$114,000 for InfoAmazonia to build applications that enable citizen reporting, data sharing and fact checking.