UCL News


SMS messages to make London greener

15 February 2007

A cross-disciplinary team from UCL is helping to spread the green message by building a free location-based mobile text service for the sustainability network London 21 to use during London Sustainability Weeks in June.

Receiving an SMS text message

PhD Geography student Hanif Rahemtulla, Dr Muki Haklay (UCL Geomatic Engineering) and Professor Paul Longley of UCL Geography are designing the service, which will provide information about events, projects, training, jobs and volunteering opportunities with an environmental focus.

Members of London 21, an umbrella organisation for over 1,500 grassroots initiatives and community projects across the capital, will be able to subscribe to the service to receive free messages about initiatives taking place within two kilometres.

The project, which is funded by the UCL Graduate School and the Economic & Social Research Council, is being developed following research undertaken last year by the UCL academics in conjunction with London 21 into the demand for environmental information on the move. They found that over three-quarters of Londoners with an interest in green matters were interested in a targeted text-based message service that would provide sustainability information related to their local area.

"Achieving sustainability on the local level is essential for achieving the global goal of sustainable development," said project leader Hanif Rahemtulla. "Although the direct environmental impacts of most local projects are mostly restricted to improvements in their localities, their collective impacts on national targets is increasingly significant."

The pilot may pave the way for similar paid-for services in the future that could raise income for some of the 60,000 community-based sector organisations in London, that work to improve surroundings or quality of life: the team's study found that over two-thirds of environmentally-minded people would consider subscribing to a targeted SMS service at a cost of 25 pence per message if a significant proportion of the fee were to be channelled back to London 21.

Chris Church, Chair of London 21 said: "This is the first time that people will be able to get practical environmental information about how they can make a difference delivered straight to their phones. We think this is really exciting and it's great to have this innovative input from UCL. It will be very interesting to see how this develops in the next few years."

To find out more, follow the links at the bottom of this article.

By Lara Carim, UCL Communications