The decline of
Indonesia’s rainforests, is mainly due to palm oil cultivation, gold mining,
logging and creation of arable land. To prevent further deforestation, WWF,
Deloitte and a consortium of public and private entities have developed a tool
that predicts deforestation through automated assessment of spectral satellite
imagery and other geospatial data. The first phase of this pilot, part of the
WWF Forest Foresight program, ran from 2020 onwards in Kalimantan (part of the
island of Borneo).
Because of the vast
amounts of data our AI-model needed to process, we migrated the initial
prototype to a cloud-native, scalable configuration. This allowed us to cut
data processing time from twelve to four hours and significantly speed-up
prediction generation for the entire island of Borneo (home to 425,124 square
kilometers of rainforest).
Much of the input
data consist of pixelated spectral satellite imagery. In order to generate
predictions, our AI-algorithm asks a determined set of questions for all the
pixels in a landscape. To clarify how the AI performs its task, one of our
modelling specialists makes the following comparison: “Pretend you’re in a random
spot within the vast Borneo rainforest, and ask yourself the question: how
likely will deforestation occur here? You then assess: is deforestation
happening close to me? How close by is the nearest town? Would an illegal
logger be able to transport the wood over roads or canals? Or easily build a
(short) logging road? Can palm oil be processed in a mill nearby?”
predictions are then visualised in a web app, accessible to local government
officials and other partners. In Gabon, where we also ran a pilot program,
rangers have actually visited specific sites, confirming that predictions had
come true. This allowed them to make targeted interventions on the ground and
preserve rainforest that would otherwise have perished.
We are proud to have successfully
predicted deforestation in Kalimantan, Malaysia, Gabon, Surinam and Guyana,
laying the groundwork for preservation of ancient tropical rain forests, in
close collaboration with local governments. Currently, our focus is on
harvesting as much feedback as possible, in order to build a better system of
prediction, intervention and – ultimately – preservation. A system that is both
effective and scalable in the long run.
At Deloitte we are committed to
helping our partners shape their business operations in sustainable ways. It’s
how we make a global impact on the environment and the future of tropical
rainforests. Together with the WWF.
Curious about how we can help make
your business more sustainable? Let’s connect for impact.