A "stop deforestation" sign
By Kyp Walls | October 25, 2019

How Rugged Tablets are Reviving Rainforests and Giving Colombian Communities a Second Chance

Researchers with the Net Zero Deforestation Project depend on mobile technology to map changes, inform recommended actions

Technology is penetrating our lives in literally every possible way. We “see” our doctor online via video chat, make every purchase (and payment) online, and tune into Twitter for Presidential updates. We even joke about how our deepest emotions are most often expressed using emojis on mobile devices, and how family dinner conversations are conducted via text – among people sitting face-to-face.

Though mobile technology often gets a bad rap for “hurting” our social skills, it should really be getting more credit for how it helps us protect entire societies.

For example, we’ve been hearing about how natural resources are vanishing due to overdevelopment by private corporations and government entities alike for practically our whole lives. Research groups have spent years on end in the middle of rainforests trying to observe and record the evolution – or, really, depletion – of entire ecosystems so that we could ultimately preserve them without slowing societal “progress”. But, until mobile technology came along, it was challenging to truly understand the impact of one society’s actions on another. We didn’t know the real implications of deforestation on economies. We didn’t have the collective insights to quickly counteract “development” and save endangered societies. Nor did we have the tools to effectively track the impact that corporations’ “zero deforestation” commitments were actually making on broader economies.

Consider the humid Caquetá region, a 705,600-hectares tropical forest ecosystem in Colombia. It has long garnered national and international attention as one of the most studied places in the Southern Hemisphere concerning climate change. But it wasn’t until the more recent advancement of mobile computing technology that researchers could quickly get online – even when “off the grid” – to thoroughly detail, and immediately share, their findings.

Over the past two years, representatives from the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and The Nature Conservancy have been in the rainforests of Caquetá, Colombia, using rugged tablet technology to map and analyze the spatial and demographical implications of the deforestation process on the surrounding environment. The Android-powered rugged tablets and Esri Geographic Information System (GIS) are also enabling the joint team to study the health of local communities and populations as part of this latest Net Zero Deforestation Project. The aggregated data will be used to drive more aggressive legislative efforts to deaccelerate, or completely stop, the fast-paced deforestation process. Policymakers will also mine the data to identify potential alternative economic opportunities, as the region’s current drug cultivation, wood extraction and livestock operations are unsustainable.

Even in the most grueling and remote parts of the world, Colombian authorities are able to finally “engage in meaningful conversations with all project stakeholders and expedite [deforestation] resolution efforts” because of rugged tablets’ real-time connectivity and around-the-clock reliability.

So rather than say mobile technology is hurting our social skills, we should consider what’s occurring in the Amazon rainforests and flip the conversation to acknowledge all the ways that mobile computers are helping entire societies. Without rugged tablets – and the real-time insights they provide – real progress would be decades away, if not impossible.


Learn more about the mobile technology powering this Net Zero Deforestation Project in Colombia.

A forest floor covered in fallen trees
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Kyp Walls
Kyp Walls

Kyp Walls joined Zebra Technologies in 2018 and currently serves as the Tablet Marketing Lead. In this role, he is responsible for the global marketing of Zebra’s tablet, 2-in-1, tablets and in-vehicle computers.

Mr. Walls has been involved in dozens of new product and service initiatives throughout his 30+ year career, and he has directed product and marketing teams for many industry-changing products. He started in the technology industry in 1991 and has held key sales and marketing roles for Panasonic, Toshiba, Dell and others. Prior to this, he spent several years in consumer goods marketing and product management for global leaders such as Procter & Gamble and Nestle.

After completing a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Mr. Walls went on to become the youngest recipient ever of an MBA from USC’s Marshall School of Business.

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