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On the 23rd of February 2023, Innovate Durban hosted a FireSide Chat with our guest speaker Rachael Z. Miller where we discussed innovative solutions to avoid water and ocean pollution. This was a major eye-opener to how humans have impacted our environment on a large scale. Through the wasteful nature of people, the environment has suffered in many ways. This article will focus on the emission of micro-plastics into our oceans.
The Rozalia Project
This project is based in Burlington, Vermont, and the Gulf of Maine where it focuses on the protection and cleaning of the ocean using technology, innovation, solutions-based research, and engaging STEM programmes. Their mission is to clean and protect our oceans. The Rozalia Project has been working on the problem of marine debris since 2010. Their work covers the surface to seafloor, with a focus on urban and coastal waterways, and utilise multiple strategies: prevention through education, remediation (cleanup), innovation, and solutions-based research. The project made the discovery that most of the trash is generated in urban areas, inland, and coastal areas.
What are Microplastics?
These are small pieces of plastic that are a result of the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles, bags, and packaging materials, which can take centuries to decompose in the environment.
Microplastics are intentionally produced through the manufacturing of ordinary cosmetic products like facial scrubs and toothpaste. These products often contain small plastic beads or microbeads, which are washed down the drain and enter waterways. Once having entered the environment, microplastics can cause harm to marine and wildlife by being ingested or entangling animals. They can also contaminate the food chain as they are consumed by small aquatic organisms, which are then eaten by larger animals.
There are 2 types:
How this affects us
The problem is closer to us than we think. Our household washing machines cause our clothes to break into tiny pieces (microfibers) each time it is washed. This means that there are 700 000 pieces per garment per wash. This contributes to microfiber pollution since this graywater is often disposed of into larger bodies of water. This harms nature in a physical aspect such as abrasions in the throats of sea creatures and starvation in much marine life. The chemical aspect is much more detrimental and results in heavy metals, chlorobenzenes, and many more that run off into our waterways.
The co-founder of the Rozalia Project, Rachael Z. Miller introduced us to her brilliant innovation, The Cora Ball.
The Cora Ball was inspired by coral filters in the ocean. This ball is a kind of laundry ball that prevents micro fibers from breaking off our clothing and collects these fibers into a type of fuzz so they can be disposed of in the right manner.
The Cora Ball has been produced through 3D printing and is made from plastic. It has a lifespan of 6 years. It is known to have an efficiency of 31% and can reduce shedding.
1. Forensics Team
Microfibers have long been a crucial component of forensic research. Conventional procedures are used in forensic investigations to reduce potential contamination and identify fibers that came from the same source. Due to the nature of forensic examinations, their design must prioritise the objectivity and validity of the methodology. Investigations of marine microfibers face many of the same difficulties as forensic investigations, therefore their identification may benefit from the adaptation and application of well-established forensic procedures. Researchers in Australia are using forensic techniques to study the sources and transport of microplastics in the marine environment, including the use of particle tracking technology to follow the movement of plastic particles. The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research is using forensics to identify the sources and distribution of microplastics in Norwegian waters, as well as the potential impacts on marine life.
2. Stop Balloons
Balloons can contribute to microplastics in a few different ways such as when balloons are released into the environment and they eventually break down and release small plastic particles known as microplastics. Balloons can also pose a threat to wildlife. Animals may mistake the balloons for food, and when they ingest the balloons, the balloons can break down into microplastics in their digestive systems. There are some places where balloon releases are already banned, such as in some US states and countries like Australia and Costa Rica. Some cities and towns have also implemented bans on certain types of balloons, such as those made of non-biodegradable materials like Mylar.
3. Marine Debris art in Korea
This art is created using marine debris such as plastic waste and other materials found on beaches and in oceans. In Korea, there are several artists and organisations that are using this form of art to raise awareness about the issue of marine pollution and to promote environmental conservation. The Korea Marine Environment Art Network (KMEAN) is a group of artists and activists who use marine debris as their medium to create art installations and sculptures. Their works are often displayed in public spaces and at events, and are intended to raise awareness about the impact of marine pollution on the environment and marine life. Marine debris art is gaining popularity in Korea as a means of promoting environmental awareness and encouraging people to take action to reduce plastic waste and other forms of marine pollution.
4. Regulations and Policies
There are a number of regulations and policies that have been put in place around the world to address the issue of microplastics. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France have banned the use of microbeads in personal care products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste. Many countries and cities have implemented bans or fees on single-use plastic bags, which can break down into microplastics over time. For example, in 2021, the European Union implemented a ban on single-use plastic products, including plastic bags. The Netherlands has a programme in place to treat wastewater and capture microplastics. Canada has implemented extended producer responsibility programmes that require companies to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, including the waste generated by those products. Many countries are also implementing educational campaigns and awareness programmes to educate the public about the issue of microplastics and encourage individuals to take action to reduce plastic waste. These are just a few examples of the regulations and policies in place around the world to address the issue of microplastics. The Save Our Seas Act (SOSA) is a U.S. federal law that was first introduced in 2017 and reauthorized in 2018 and 2020. The act was designed to address the problem of marine debris and ocean pollution, including plastic pollution.
5. Plastic Bank
This is an international organisation that aims to reduce plastic waste and poverty by creating a market for recycled plastic. The organization has set up several “plastic banks” in Haiti to encourage people to collect plastic waste and exchange it for goods or cash. Plastic Bank has provided a source of income for thousands of Haitians while also reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the environment. In addition to its work in Haiti, Plastic Bank has set up similar programmes in several other countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brazil. Through these initiatives, the organisation is working to create a more sustainable future by reducing plastic waste and promoting social and economic development.
6. Bubble Barrier
A bubble barrier is a system that uses air bubbles to trap plastic waste and other debris in waterways, preventing it from flowing downstream. The system works by creating a wall of bubbles across a river or canal, which creates a barrier that traps floating debris and directs it to a collection point. The Netherlands is one of several countries that has implemented bubble barrier systems to address the problem of plastic waste in its waterways. The Bubble Barrier in Amsterdam consists of a tube that is placed on the bottom of the canal, which releases a stream of bubbles that rises to the surface. The bubbles create a barrier that pushes plastic waste and other debris to the sides of the canal, where it can be collected and removed.
These are just a few of the innovative ways in which countries have tried to solve the microplastic pollution problem.
I will end this piece with a wise quote: “The oceans are the planet’s last great living wilderness, man’s only remaining frontier on Earth, and perhaps his last chance to prove himself a rational species.” – John L. Culleny. As humans, we need to do better at conserving our planet.
By: Tamisha Gengayah
By Andre Pillay
In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is key to progress and success, but with numerous challenges facing economies, cultivating a culture of innovation is more important than ever. That’s where ChatGPT comes in. Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT is an advanced artificial intelligence-powered language model that can inspire, teach, and cultivate innovation.
ChatGPT’s ability to understand and generate human-like responses to a wide range of questions and commands makes it a valuable tool for inspiring innovation. Individuals can explore new concepts and learn from the perspectives of others by engaging in conversations with ChatGPT. This can help generate new and innovative ideas and provide inspiration for thinking outside the box and approaching challenges in new ways.
Furthermore, ChatGPT can also be used to teach innovation by providing information and resources on entrepreneurship. It can help people develop the skills and knowledge they need to bring their ideas to life, including how to turn an idea into a business plan, find funding, and network and collaborate with like-minded individuals.
Cultivating a culture of innovation is also critical to progress and growth. ChatGPT can play a role in this by fostering conversations and providing information on innovation. By spreading awareness about the importance of innovation, ChatGPT can encourage people to embrace new ideas and technologies, creating an environment where innovation is valued and supported.
In addition to its potential impact on innovation, ChatGPT can also revolutionize the workplace. It has numerous applications that can enhance work processes and efficiency.
For example, ChatGPT can improve customer service by automating repetitive tasks such as answering frequently asked questions and directing customers to relevant resources. This can free up time for human customer service representatives to focus on more complex and challenging customer inquiries, leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
ChatGPT can also automate routine and time-consuming tasks in the workplace, such as data entry, scheduling appointments, and generating reports. This can free up employees to focus on more important and value-adding activities, enhancing productivity.
Furthermore, ChatGPT can improve collaboration and communication within the workplace. Providing quick and accurate answers to questions can save time and minimize misunderstandings, resulting in more productive and efficient teams. It can also be integrated into team chat apps to assist employees in real-time,but that’s not all.
ChatGPT can also be a valuable tool for innovators in the innovation ecosystem. Its ability to generate ideas, facilitate learning and collaboration, and support decision-making can contribute to the growth and success of innovation projects and initiatives.
Like anything, there will always be bad with the good so here are some possible cons of using ChatGPT:
Job Loss: AI has the potential to replace jobs currently done by humans, leading to a loss of jobs in industries that rely on human labor. While some new jobs may be created, thenet effect could be negative.
Dependence: People may become too reliant on AI for decision-making, which could lead to a decrease in critical thinking and problem-solving skills and a lack of diversity in opinions and perspectives.
Privacy: AI systems rely on large amounts of data, which can raise concerns about privacy and security. Companies must ensure that they are collecting and using data ethically and transparently, which can be a challenge in an age where data breaches are becoming more common.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data used to train them or the algorithms themselves. This can lead to discriminatory outcomes in hiring or lending decisions.
Cost: Implementing AI can be expensive, especially for smaller companies. The cost of developing and maintaining AI systems may be prohibitive for some businesses, leading to further consolidation in industries dominated by larger companies.
It’s clear that this technology has both positive and negative implications for society. While AI has the potential to revolutionize industries and improve the quality of life for individuals, it also poses several concerns that must be addressed.
However, it’s important to note that the success of AI implementation depends largely on how it’s utilized. Companies and individuals must take steps to ensure that AI is being used ethically and transparently, and that potential negative consequences are being mitigated. By taking a responsible approach to AI, it’s possible to harness its benefits while minimizing its drawbacks.
Therefore, it’s crucial for businesses and individuals to be mindful of the potential risks associated with AI, and to use it in a responsible and ethical manner. Ultimately, the success of AI implementation will depend on the choices we make about how we use it. With careful consideration and responsible action, we can ensure that AI is a positive force for change in society.
Dickson, B. 2022. What to (not) expect from OpenAI’s ChatGPT. TechTalks. Available: https://bdtechtalks.com/2022/12/05/openai-chatgpt/.
Zinkula, J. Mok, A. 2023. 7 Ways to Use ChatGPT at Work to Boost Your Productivity, Make Your Job Easier, and Save a Ton of Time. Entrepreneur. Available: https://www.entrepreneur.com/business-news/how-to-use-chatgpt-to-save-time-and-make-work-easier/444622.
By: Tamisha Gengayah
The increasing of society has led to various aspects of everyday life relying heavily on the digital sphere. This has resulted in the generation of vast amounts of data, known as big data, through the digital traces and footprints left behind by individuals. With the aid of advanced analytic tools like AI, valuable information can be extracted from this massive pool of data, enabling significant advancements in various fields.
The term ‘big data’ refers to large, complicated data that are challenging to manage using conventional data processing methods. Big data is described using the “3 Vs”—volume (big amount of data), velocity (rapid rate of data in and out), and variety (wide range of data types and sources). Big data analysis can spot trends, patterns, and insights that traditional approaches can overlook. This ability to collect and analyse vast amounts of data is a key component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
Big data has made significant advancements in many areas, including healthcare, reducing crime by patterns and trends, protecting the environment by tracking, and environmental changes, disaster relief, and many more areas. Here lies the problem. Some would argue that there must be a drawback to big data if it can collect enormous volumes of data and handle it without error. Big data’s ethics and privacy policies have frequently come under scrutiny.
Many people have questioned who is responsible for ensuring that big data is collected, stored, and used ethically, and who is accountable for any harm that results from its misuse. Some people question the ownership of the data that is collected and how being used and shared.
There are many laws and policies in place to protect sensitive information, however, these laws are sometimes overlooked by large corporations. The most recent case involving Microsoft’s illegal collection and retention of children’s data for its Xbox video game console raised significant concerns about big data and privacy issues. Microsoft had collected data from children without parental consent and retained it unlawfully, clearly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This incident highlighted the need for stricter regulations and safeguards to protect the personal information of users, especially children.
This situation raised public awareness of the potential dangers of big data in the context of children’s privacy. With the mass creation of digital technologies, including gaming consoles, social media platforms, and online services, vast amounts of data are being generated, collected, and analyses daily. Companies like Microsoft have access to extensive personal information and even sensitive details like health and behavioral patterns. In cases where children are involved, it is crucial to protect their privacy since they may not fully understand the implications of sharing their personal information, making it essential for parents/guardians to be involved in consent processes.
This case is a reminder that big data concerns extend beyond individual privacy. They raise broad questions regarding the responsible handling and disposal of data. It the need for effective data protection regulations, strict enforcement, and corporate accountability to ensure the safeguarding of personal information in the digital age.
A Solution to the problem
To solve this and put people at ease, it is important to ensure transparency in the collection, storage, and use of big data so that individuals are aware of how their information is being used and can make informed decisions about it. People should also be granted access to and control over their data, including the right to know what data is being collected and how it is used. Since companies and originations that are collecting big data often collect sensitive information about individuals, such as their financial history, health records, and personal preferences.
Here are a few steps users can take to protect themselves from big data concerns:
Be mindful of what information you share online. Only share personal information on trusted websites. Caution is advised when sharing sensitive information such as your social security number/ID number, bank account details, and date of birth.
It is advisable to create strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication.
Protect your Web browsing by making use of a virtual private network (VPN) which can encrypt your internet connection and protect your online activities from prying eyes.
Use your privacy settings to limit the amount of data you share with websites and social media platforms.
Be wary of phishing scams that are designed to trick you into revealing your personal information.
Be cautious when clicking on links in emails or text messages and never provide personal information to unknown sources.
Install software but ensure that it is a legit product. Installing software from sketchy sites can cause more harm.
By taking these steps, you can protect yourself from big data concerns and safeguard your personal information online.
Advantages of Big Data
Despite the privacy and ethical concerns regarding big data, there are many advantages of big data. Big Data has the potential to significantly everyday life through improved decision-making since big data enables to vast amounts of information, leading to more informed and accurate decisions.
Big data has the potential to increase efficiency by allowing to identify inefficiencies and processes, leading to increased productivity and cost savings.
Another underrated benefit of big data is Innovation. The development of new products and services is all possible through trends in large amounts of data. Big data can provide companies with new insights and opportunities for innovation, leading to the development of new products and services.
In conclusion, the emergence of big data in our increasingly digital society has brought both opportunities and challenges. While big data analysis has shown great potential for advancements in various fields, it has also raised significant ethical concerns regarding privacy.
Instances like the Microsoft case have highlighted the need for stricter regulations and safeguards to protect personal information. It is essential to ensure transparency in the collection, storage, and use of big data, granting individuals access and control over their data. Strengthening data protection regulations and corporate accountability are vital steps in safeguarding personal information in the digital age. Individuals can also take measures to protect themselves from big data concerns, such as being cautious when sharing information online, using strong passwords and privacy settings to limit data sharing.
Despite the challenges, big data analysis offers significant advantages, including improved decision-making, increased efficiency, and opportunities for innovation. By addressing ethical considerations, we can harness its potential while ensuring the protection of privacy.
Big Data Analytics – Ethical Privacy Issues. n.d. Eaton Business School. Available: https://ebsedu.org/blog/data-analytics-ethical-privacy-issues/.
Duggal, N. 2023. Top 7 Benefits of Big Data and Analytics and Reasons to Consider It. Available: https://www.simplilearn.com/benefits-of-big-data-and-analytics-article.
Klosowski, T. n.d. How to Protect Your Digital Privacy. The New York Times. Available: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/privacy-project/how-to-protect-your-digital-privacy.
The Big Data Debate: Big Risks vs Big Opportunities. n.d. Cicero. Available: https://cicerogroup.com/blog/2019/07/17/the-big-data-debate-big-risks-vs-big-opportunities/.
The Washington Post. 2023. Microsoft will pay $20M to settle U.S. charges of illegally collecting children’s data. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/06/05/microsoft-xbox-childrens-data-ftc-fine/54419e80-040c-11ee-b74a-5bdd335d4fa2_story.html#.
Weinhardt, M. 2021. Big Data: Some Ethical Concerns for the Social Sciences. Social Sciences 10: 36.
By: Mark Mongali
In today’s fast-changing world, various places serve as hotspots for innovative ideas and progress because of their high concentration of people, resources, and activities. These centres become fertile grounds for innovation and progress as they provide the necessary resources and capital for people to harness and nurture innovative ideas. As a result, innovation thrives in these diverse locations, driving advancements and positive change across different communities and industries.
Within this landscape, Innovate Durban emerges as a progressive innovation organization, and redefines the boundaries of possibility in various areas because of its proactive approach to supporting and connecting innovators, uplifting people, providing mentorship, and providing them with essential innovation-related skills. By fostering collaboration and nurturing talent in different fields, Innovate Durban creates an environment where diverse ideas flourish, propelling progress and paving the way for transformative advancements in multiple domains.
This article explores how Innovate Durban has emerged at the forefront of innovation in KZN.
Innovate Durban, set up in 2016 and operationalised in 2017, is a registered non-profit organization (NPO) with a mission to encourage and support innovation and innovators in the Durban, KwaZulu-Natal region and even beyond. It all started when the eThekwini Municipality’s Economic Development Unit produced a plan to promote innovation in the municipal area, with a focus on marginalised communities. This plan became Innovate Durban. This was all made possible through the help of the Innovation Stakeholder Forum, a group that meets every three months to talk about innovation and how to support and nurture it in Durban, KZN.
The organization has a primary goal of cultivating a thriving culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the region. With a focus on supporting start-ups, fostering collaboration, and promoting innovative thinking across diverse sectors, Innovate Durban has contributed to job creation and economic development in the region.
However, the journey to achieving these objectives was not without its challenges. Like many initiatives, Innovate Durban encountered various barriers, including financial constraints and technical hurdles. To overcome these obstacles, the organization actively sought partnerships with public and private entities, academia, and non-profit organizations, creating a collaborative ecosystem that harnessed collective resources and expertise. By leveraging these partnerships, Innovate Durban was able to secure additional funding, access advanced technical support, and provide more extensive opportunities and resources for its innovators and communities. This collaborative approach has strengthened the innovation ecosystem in the region, allowing for greater support to budding entrepreneurs and enabling sustainable growth in the region’s start-up landscape.
The Innovation Co-Lab embodies Innovate Durban’s core vision which is showing the organization’s commitment to fostering innovative progress. The Co-Lab is situated in Cato Manor and offers a space for collaboration and nurturing ideas. Entrepreneurs, researchers, and innovators gather here to utilize advanced technologies and comprehensive services, including 3D printing, laser cutting and working space for collaboration.
Additionally, Innovate Durban has extended its impact to other regions. The Indaleni Innovation Hub in Richmond and an upcoming Innovation Co-Lab in Kokstad further highlight the organization’s dedication to empowering marginalized communities. These hubs provide mentorship, training, funding, and investment opportunities through empowering visionary individuals with the potential to revolutionize different industries and transform various areas.
Youth Innovation Challenge (YIC) is the Flagship Programme of Innovate Durban. It seeks to take a group of around 60-80 youth (ages 18 – 35) through the innovation pipeline with the intention of finding innovative solutions for challenges faced by residents and businesses. Implementation includes upskilling workshops, coding training, pitching sessions, and group solution demonstration events.
Start-Up Support Programme (SUSP) is an accelerated mentorship programme taking innovators from conceptualisation to a market-ready phase. The 12-month programme includes providing business and technical skills to innovators, facilitating prototype funding for participants, and linking innovators with angel investors.
Innovator Support Fund (ISF): Beyond the Start-Up Support Programme Innovate Durban also offers support on an ongoing basis through the ISF. This programme provides funding for innovators who have a prototype or market viable product. In 2023, 10 innovators have each been sponsored R20000, with Innovate Durban touching base with the supported individuals on a 6- and 12-month basis.
Pitching Den is an initiative aimed at allowing innovators to pitch their business concepts to a panel of judges. Before the final pitching, innovators attend pitch training sessions run by Innovate Durban to develop capacity. The Pitching Den aims to highlight innovators and innovative start-ups and opportunities, create a platform and network opportunities for innovators to pitch their businesses, and link innovators/start-ups with Venture Capital and Angel Investors. Prizes are awarded as part of the initiative, and innovators are also given networking and investor meet-up opportunities through the programmes.
Innovate Durban looks ahead to a promising future, working on exciting projects and expanding its influence in the region. With a growing network of partners and supporters, Innovate Durban takes the lead in driving innovation. By embracing teamwork, collaboration, and data-driven strategies, Innovate Durban strives to make the region more sustainable, resilient, and fair for everyone.
Innovate Durban stands as an innovation organization, reshaping the lives of innovators, communities, and inspiring global change. As Durban evolves and surges ahead, Innovate Durban remains at the forefront, challenging norms and promoting change.