MUNICH, 17.5.2022 – The Germany-based startup Village Data Analytics (VIDA), a data software company that is seeking to revolutionise global development, announced on Monday (May 16th) it won the prestigious German Innovation Award for Climate and Environment 2022 (https://www.iku-innovationspreis.de). The award comes on the heels of the Copernicus and Parsec awards for earth observation, earlier this year.
“In order to successfully combat climate change, we not only have to restructure the economies of the industrialized countries quickly and profoundly. We must also give the other half of the world's population, in developing countries, a future,“ said VIDA co-founder Tobias Engelmeier.“ At the same time, however, emissions must be capped, important ecosystems protected and resources such as water and land used responsibly.“
At COP26, governments agreed that smart investments worth trillions in green solutions for energy, mobility, buildings, industry and agriculture over the next ten years are required in the developing world. For this to succeed, data and data technologies are essential to channel investments quickly, transparently and effectively, to identify market opportunities, assess risks, accelerate processes, create transparency and measure results and impact.
VIDA is a map-based software. It fuses different data sources - from satellite imagery and public datasets to on-ground surveys or sensor data - and applies analytical algorithms to them. Information is displayed in an interactive map that allows users to plan, assess, monitor and communicate about activities in villages and cities across the developing world. VIDA helps investors, banks, companies, and governments make more transparent, better and faster data-based decisions that promote the UN sustainable development goals, such as sustainable energy access, healthcare development or more resilient and viable smallholder agriculture.
No Data, No Change
In many African countries there is little reliable information about how many people live where and where the power grid is located. This makes it almost impossible for a government to find the best strategy for electrification (SDG7).
Another example of this lack of knowledge is that hundreds of companies, such as Cargill, Nestlé or Carrefour, committed 10 years ago that their products (from chocolate to leather seats) will no longer contribute to deforestation by 2020. Yet not a single company has achieved the goal. One of the main reasons is that companies usually do not even know which cultivation areas the cocoa, palm oil or cow leather for their products comes from.
“This may seem surprising to Europeans who often use Google Maps just to find the way to the train station, but the fact is while we worry about data overload and data rights, large parts of the world are trapped in a pre-digital “data darkness”, explains Tobias Engelmeier.
The Technology is Here
Technological advances are making rapid change possible. Satellites provide us with ever more precise images of the world at ever faster rates. Even in remote areas, there are more and more sensors that measure water flows or meter electricity. Our computers can process large amounts of data faster and cheaper and artificial intelligence helps us to recognize patterns to better control investments and processes.
VIDA has set out to make these technologies usable for sustainable development and thus contribute to achieving climate goals.
The VIDA software links various data sources such as satellite data, sensor data, survey information or photos and makes them visible on a digital map. Users can enter their own data, define projects and work in the software. They are supported by AI algorithms.
VIDA, founded by Dr. Tobias Engelmeier, Nabin Raj Gaihre and Philippe Raisin, was launched in February 2021. Since then, it has been used in 18 countries, from Pakistan to Nigeria to Colombia. More than 20,000 investment opportunities were processed and 1.5 billion in investments channeled, much in electrification (grid expansion and mini-grids), but also in schools, health systems or agricultural production. VIDA users are companies, banks and governments.
MUNICH, March 22, 2022 – Multiple award-winning software startup Village Data Analytics (VIDA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) announced on Tuesday the start of an ambitious project to map the renewable energy access potential of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project is part of a shared mission to accelerate sustainable electrification investments across the developing world and undertaken under the new World Bank Group Scaling Mini-Grid (SMG) program
“VIDA uses satellite imagery, geospatial data, on-ground surveys and energy modeling that help identify electricity demand locations, suitable sites and reduce investment risk,” says VIDA co-founder Tobias Engelmeier. “Harnessed to the development of mini-grid systems, for example, this technology has great potential in helping achieve green electrification across Africa at a scale that can meet the urgency of our times.”
The DRC is upheld as a key country in Africa’s proposed green energy transition as it has a vast virgin rainforest to be protected alongside meeting ambitious development goals. The International Renewable Energy Agency last year estimated DRC had only 20 MW of grid-connected solar capacity. Energy in large cities is largely provided by polluting and expensive diesel power and only about 9% of the population as currently access to electricity.
The VIDA-IFC project is to analyze Mbuji-Mayi and Kananga, two large provincial cities, to identify the potential for decentralized renewable electrification. The outcome is a preliminary design of mini-grids and cost information. The project will also provide information on the mini-grid market potential across the entire country to help further prospective private developers and investors enter and develop the Congolese clean energy access market.
“Currently electricity is not reliable in these cities. It’s a major impediment to building a modern and sustainable economy and providing granular, up to date market data is key towards accelerating investments in clean energy access in DRC,” says Yann Tanvez, mini-grid lead for the Africa region at the IFC.
Launched in February 2021 and vetted by the European Space Agency, VIDA is already being used in 18 countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Pakistan. The company’s mission is to help government planners, international lenders, investors and energy providers access and make use of reliable and sophisticated data to guide and scale investment decisions.
“VIDA has brought standardized electrification planning to the sector, which is key to scaling energy access,” says Engelmeier. “Data-driven development can ramp up our current electrification rate of 5-8 million people per year to 100 million. The fact that there are very few legacy data systems in place means that these places can leapfrog to the very front of the technology revolution.”
VIDA is also being used to identify the potential to add solar to and expand existing electricity infrastructures in five cities in Sudan. Data from on-ground surveys and demand data of the existing network are being used to predict demand for expansion. VIDA algorithms utilize large data (some of the towns have more than a million buildings) to train its prediction model and identify the demand for electricity.
In Nigeria, VIDA is being used to identify high-priority off-grid healthcare facilities that need immediate electrification. In Kenya, VIDA is used to predict and validate monthly revenue from mini-grid sites. In Mozambique, VIDA was used to channel international funding into schools and increase their climate change resilience. '
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. In 2021, IFC committed a record $31.5 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VIDA is a map-based software that enables development decision makers to plan and monitor investments. VIDA allows users to fuse public data, such as satellite imagery, with own data such as on-ground surveys or sensor data. Based on unique proprietary algorithms and vetted by the European Space Agency, VIDA is currently used in 18 countries, from Sierra Leone to Colombia. It has processed more than 20,000 investment opportunities and channeled €1.5 billion in investments, mostly in electrification (grid expansion and mini-grids), but also in schools, healthcare systems and agricultural production. VIDA users are companies, global banks and governments. Founded just a year ago, VIDA has been awarded a Copernicus Masters, Falling Walls and Parsec prizes as well as the German government prize for innovation and climate.
Tobias Engelmeier, Co-Founder