The idea of TAHMO started back in 2010/2011 and was formalized through a foundation in 2014. Since 2014 the organization managed to install over 400+ weather stations across 20 African countries. An amazing achievement. However, this did not go as simple as an ABC. Through this blog, we would like to lift the curtain on some of the challenges that we faced throughout the years. Perhaps you – our reader – are able to come up with suggestions or ideas to smoothen the challenges that we face up ahead.
So here come the six challenges that TAHMO faces.
Have a partnership agreement with national metrological agencies. Every country has a different administrative structure. Countries differ in the way they do business and set up collaboration programs. How do you share data? Who gets it first? How do you share costs and revenues? Who does the maintenance? All these questions need to be answered before you can operate in the area of a governmental agency.
Find an experienced local host who is available in the case of station maintenance. The training that one has to give a local host depends on various factors. Like is the host staying in the area for the long term? We create a shared responsibility by providing the local host with access to the weather data. This is how the school2school platform was set up. This resulted that most of the local hosts being teachers. Consequently, with 400+ weather stations, this means that a lot of hosts are needed which puts the strain on good & quality relationship management with each host.
Weather stations are not free. Funding is needed to buy the stations and put them in the right location. We have to pay for the installation and maintenance of each station. Now, here is a little eye-opener: the larger your infrastructure, the more money you have to pay for your maintenance. And maintenance is not always easy. Some weather stations might be right around the corner. But sometimes you must drive up a full day for a quick fix. And although our weather station is the most robust weather stations out there, that does not guarantee a maintenance-free infrastructure. Leaves can get into the funnel, sensors might stop working, or perhaps a tree has overgrown near our weather station, influencing the data.
Everywhere we go, we find a different setting with different conditions. The access to the site might be bad, there are safety concerns of theft of our weather stations and more. Sensors might stop working, a hardware update might deplete the batteries and if the station is not regularly cleaned, it will influence the data and even might stop working. For this reason, we promote the cleaning of our stations through our social media. To create awareness that infrastructure should be regularly maintained.
Data Sharing Challenges
The TAHMO weather stations collect data. But with big data, comes great responsibility. With whom do we share this data? What do our partners want to do with it? Should we give it to other governmental institutions like housing or the military? Could our data be used to harm people or minorities? These questions are of major importance which have – most of the time – no clear answers.
Setting up the infrastructure has not been easy. But with the help of our partners, researchers, enthusiast, volunteers, and our great team, we’ve managed to install 400+ weather stations in 20 countries. A great success.
Do you have ideas on how to help TAHMO? Please share them by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
**Written by Theophile Mande & Friso Vos de Wael