Curbing deforestation in Borneo: Microsoft

DeforestAction Eco Warriors in Borneo

PHOTO -  Neo Chai Chin (first from left), Paul Daley (fourth from right, back row), Fahrani Empel (second from right, back row) and the DeforestAction Eco Warriors visiting an indigenous village in West Kalimantan, where they heard from village elders and families on how illegal deforestation has impacted their livelihood. Through the use of technology in education, the groundbreaking DeforestAction program aims to bring together students from all around the world to put a stop to illegal deforestation.

Software giant Microsoft Asia Pacific together with TakingITGlobal has backed 15 young ‘eco-warriors’ in the jungles of West Kalimantan, Borneo in an effort to curb deforestation, called DeforestAction.

Selected from hundreds of applications, the eco-warriors travelled to one of the world’s most active sites for illegal logging activities to try to halt the rapid pace of deforestation, said Microsoft Asia-Pacific director Neil Jackson. The 15 eco-warriors spent their first 20 days in the Borneo rainforest where they met with more than 3,000 local Dayak people, authorities from the police, the army, the Ministry of Forestry as well as the local parliament, the eco-warriors assessed the on-ground situation and finalised a plan to curtail illegal logging in West Kalimantan while creating a sustainable socio-economic environment for the local population.

“We are proud to be able to empower these next generation leaders with the resources and support to take action on issues that not only concern themselves, but for future generations as well,” said Jackson.

“Throughout the years, Microsoft has been providing platforms such as the highly successful Imagine Cup and DreamSpark that enables students to turn their passion into action. And through our partnerships with education communities such as TakingITGlobal, we are able to provide these programs for young people to turn their ideas into ‘Epic’ solutions,” he said. “DeforestAction continues this trend by addressing two of the biggest challenges the world faces today: education and environment.”

He said that during their three-week expedition in the jungle, the Eco Warriors also held a webinar with thousands of school students throughout Asia Pacific, helping drive awareness and calling for more students to join the initiative as Action Agents.

Jackson added that students around the world have also been using a groundbreaking new software tool-EarthWatchers, to monitor the forests and provide usable intelligence to stop deforestation. “Utilising Microsoft SQL Azure database technology, Silverlight technology for engaging and dynamic interactivity, as well as Bing Maps and the latest in satellite imaging and monitoring technology, EarthWatchers provides a new approach for education by involving students directly in conservation efforts by allowing them to monitor real data and to go beyond lectures to have a hands-on impact.”

Issue of epic proportions

“Faced with an issue of epic proportions, DeforestAction exemplifies the power of student-centred learning demonstrating that students can be leaders in driving positive change and learn the skills they need to shape a better world,” said youth community TakingITGlobal co-founder, Michael Furdyk. “This programme is a breakthrough in driving 21st century teaching and learning methods focused on problem-solving, cross-cultural collaboration, global citizenship and entrepreneurship.”

One of the 15 Eco Warriors, Paul Daley, said, “The scale of the challenge has never been bigger, but with an increasingly connected world our mission to gather an army of millions of passionate young people becomes a living possibility. The creativity and implementation of solutions will need to surpass the intensity of this unprecedented deforestation that, if left undealt with, will lead us down a path of climate instability, biodiversity collapse and ultimately a diminishing quality of life for our children, who will ultimately inherit this planet from us.”

“We saw great beauty and generosity in the forests and indigenous people during the 20 days in West Kalimantan. We also heard many first-hand accounts of injustice, and often wished we could instantly transmit and relay our experiences to our networks and the rest of the world. Technology, combined with on-the-ground action, will be essential for this project to succeed. We would love for more students and teachers to join us through web seminars, EarthWatchers, as well as our social media sites,” said Neo Chai Chin, an Eco Warrior from Singapore.

As part of the initiative to involve students worldwide in the forest conservation effort, a competition is being held where Action Agents who raise US$5,000 and recruit 500 members to their Action Hub by Dec. 31 this year are eligible to travel to Borneo and spend 14 days on the ground with the Eco Warriors in 2012.

The 15 Eco Warriors will return to the jungles of Borneo for 80 days early next year, where they will put their plan to action.  To find out more on DeforestAction and/or to sign up to be part of the programme, please visit


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