The start-up enterprise Severe Weather Consult in Rwanda succeeded in receiving support to develop a business model and is now involved in a public private partnership that allows them to make use of weather data for an alert advisory service to farmers.
Severe Weather Consult has developed an innovative weather information system technology, named iHewa, that combines the power of ICTs with data from ground weather stations, satellite and lightning sensors to support education, agriculture, water, tourism and disaster management sectors in Rwanda. The technology uses innovative low-cost lightning detectors to track lightning strikes in an area and sends alerts to people in the city of Musanze in Northern Rwanda.
It integrates lightning data with robust, low cost and automatic weather stations parameters (rain, wind, temperature, humidity, solar radiation and air pressure) provided by the TAHMO network, and combines this with satellite data. The result is a detailed dataset of effective, timely and GPS localised weather information, predictions and alerts on floods and lightning for the city’s residents and the neighbouring farming communities.
The three founders of the start-up found each other in a common goal to start a social private company that solves societal challenges by making use of ICTs. However, none of them was aware how bumpy the road would be to get the dream turned into reality. Starting a company is very difficult and challenging, especially without an entrepreneurial background. The team required addition skills apart from technology and science to develop a business model, payment system, marketing strategy and financial modelling.
Technical and entrepreneurial support
Fortunately, the founders could find support to kick-start and scale-up the company from Delft University of Technology, Trans‐African Hydro‐Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), Truvalu start-ups and VIA WATER. They offered intensive trainings on climate technology, turning technology into a viable entrepreneurial business case, business development, financial management, marketing etc.
It has been proven important for Severe Weather Consult to improve the network with professionals in weather technology and services, learn from existing Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in weather and climate services, and work together with small business operators also in weather technology and ICT advisory services to learn from their successes, challenges and envisioned tangible solutions. Occasions like the AMCOMET-Africa Hydromet Forum that was organised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September 2017 are important for small enterprises such as Severe Weather Consult to increase the network.
As a social enterprise Severe Weather Consult wants to contribute to increase the accessibility of weather and climate data to farmers. Therefore, data sharing is at the heart of the social mission as it helps to enable effectively planning and decision-making for farmers. But open data is also important for running the company. Open weather data means data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone to develop a sustainable business cases.
Working in a PPP construction with data providers is important to sustain the supply of and access to quality weather data. In such partnership model Meteorological agencies, knowledge institutes and business operators agree on a framework how to use and improve open weather data.
Since January 2017, Severe Weather Consult has implemented this project that works on a severe weather warning system on floods and lightning in Musanze city. The project now tests the weather monitoring platform, that issues alerts on extreme weather conditions, and provide useful weather information advisory services to its users. Data are gathered from weather stations and sent to a server located at Meteo-Rwanda. The data is accessible for Severe Weather Consult and TAHMO for data processing, analysis and information and advisory dissemination.