ClimaCell, the private weather forecasting company based in Boston that has pioneered “microweather” forecasting based on sensors in smartphones, vehicles and other sources, is spinning off a nonprofit arm that will seek to close the gap in weather and climate information between developing nations and the industrialized world.
The company is tackling this because it sees a need for a new approach to scaling up weather observations and forecasting capabilities that could save lives in Africa and parts of Asia, and thinks that bringing the profit motive to bear on such an endeavor could harm the effort.
The company will seek to build capacity for weather monitoring and forecasting in African countries such as Uganda and Kenya, including through partnerships with national meteorological agencies. They’ll also seek to make sure data is accessible and useful for people on the ground, including farmers whose livelihoods depend on accurate weather information.
The company has hired one staff member, Georgina Campbell, to lead the nonprofit effort, and will begin fundraising from foundations and other sources starting Tuesday. Campbell, who has a background in emerging markets and how businesses can tackle systemic poverty, will head up ClimaCell.org. She has been serving as director of business development for emerging markets at the company.
“No one has actually looked at it as a systems challenge,” she said of many previous efforts to bring better weather and climate information to Africa, a continent of 1.2 billion.
In an exclusive interview with the Capital Weather Gang, Rei Goffer, ClimaCell co-founder and chief strategy officer, said too many for-profit companies and international organizations have tried to bring their technology to Africa to help farmers and others with critical weather needs, only to have the efforts end in failure.
Even though ClimaCell is still in its infancy, having started in 2015, Goffer said now is the right time to address this challenge as the company seeks to develop computer modeling tools and observation systems that can be applied to a broad range of geographical settings.
“You can always say, well, let’s tackle Africa or these other parts of the world later,” Goffer said. “We believe and have believed since day one this is an urgent problem and has to be tackled in a focused way,” he added, referring to the drastic disparity between the weather information available to citizens of industrialized countries and what residents of populous African nations can easily access.