Anti Deforestation App

Fighting Deforestation with Digitalization

The Prey Lang forest supports the livelihoods of over 200,000 Cambodians. It is also home to endangered plant and animal species and valuable timber that is coveted by Illegal loggers. 

We joined forces with the missionary organization Danmission, a group of local indigenous people and activists called the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) and the University of Copenhagen to produce a simple but powerful mobile and web app to prove illegal activity and land use change in the Prey Lang region. Following the success of the app, it has been rolled out for the Preah Rokar forest community (PFCN) and enhanced in collaboration with human rights organization Article 19 .

ClientDanmission, Prey Lang Community Network & the University of Copenhagen
ServicesWeb & Android App Development
UX Design
Users400 activists using 36 phones
Team1 QA, 1 Project Manager, 1 Scrum master, multiple developers

Impact & Results

Delivers Reliable Data

Data collected by the app is used in reports to prove that deforestation is increasing. Examples include the number of chainsaws confiscated, loggers' means of transport and the percentage of land cleared

Raises International Awareness

The app and PLCN have received international awards for the innovative use of technology to document wildlife and forest crime, including the UNDP-backed Equator Prize, the Energy Globe, and awards from Yale and the University of Copenhagen

Increases Patrol Effectiveness

Hotspots for illegal activity can be identified from anywhere in the world via the web app and targeted by patrols to maximize the impact of resources on the ground

Enables Faster Action

 The combination of mobile and worldwide accessible web app database decreases the time elapsed between observation, publication and preventative action taken

Reduces Networking Costs

By connecting a rural community to a global network the app lowers the cost of networking for those campaigning for Prey Lang, Preah Rokar in and outside of Cambodia

Empowers Communities

The decentralized reporting enables marginalized communities to defy hierarchical social structures and make their voices heard

Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

Find out more about the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here.

The Challenge

    • Use ICT to replace unreliable handwritten data collection methods
    • Increase the amount of visual, audio and numerical data collected
    • Decrease the time between data collection and publication
    • Make it possible or users to review the data for accuracy
    • Produce a mobile app for a user group that may be illiterate or new to smartphone technology
    • Ensure uploaded data can be accessed by all users
    • Keep data confidential and protect the identity of collector


      Streamlined Data Collection & Submission

      • A pictorial decision tree guides the categorization of collected photos or audio, including details that can be used as evidence such as the logger's clothing, method of transport or timing of the interaction
      • All data collected is automatically geotagged
      • When connected to the internet the mobile app uploads data to the web app via a Dropbox API 

        Data Quality Assurance

      • A web app built using TYPO3 Flow provides a centralized database where managers can validate or dismiss records, generate reports and observe the progress of patrols in the forests
      • Patrollers can review all entries and learn why submissions have been dismissed to improve the quality of their monitoring

      Simple User Experience

      • The colorful mobile app is simple to use and the responsive web app functions on both desktop and mobile due to limited local access to desktop devices
      • Patrollers are alerted if there is unuploaded data or less than 500mb of space on the phone
      • The mobile app regularly scans for an active 3G or wireless connection and prompts the user to find a connection
      • Images can be easily shared to support PCLN's and PFCN's social media presence

      User protection

      • Data collection is anonymous
      • The mobile and web apps are password protected

      The App in Action

        PLCN members using the app in the field

        It has been a unique experience to be part of a project with an informal local network (Prey Lang Community Network), a research institute (University of Copenhagen) and an ICT company (Web Essentials), all of us working for a common cause.

        Ernst J├╝rgensen
        Country Representative for Cambodia

        prey lang data collection dashboard

        Why this Project was Special

          The Committee Approach

          In this joint project Web Essentials went beyond the role of supplier to committee member, actively defining the concept together with the communities to determine the methods of monitoring that were most important to them.

          Our project manager Mary spent time with the villagers on patrol in Prey Lang forest. By connecting so closely with the end user from the beginning we could create a product that fully fitted their needs


          The Unique User Experience

          One of the most important questions was how to design a user friendly mobile app for villagers who may be illiterate or never used a smartphone?

          For the data to be useful it needed to be specific. So our challenge was to find a way to allow complex categorization in the simplest way possible.

          For each entry, the user is led through a pictorial decision tree to categorize their entry in detail. As our end users were Cambodian, a local designer produced the designs for each visual filter to ensure they were culturally and locally relevant.

          Due to limited access to desktop computers in the region data graphs were designed with mobile devices in mind. Multiple rounds of prototype testing and consultation workshops in the field allowed rapid feedback for specific improvements.


          The Innovation for Social Impact

          This is the first project of its kind in Cambodia, using ICT to empower the community and revolutionize communication methods between themselves and international organizations working on their behalf.

          Community members can collect data with the same accuracy as professionals to actively influence the higher-up decision making affecting their livelihoods.

          The app promotes local involvement in taking action against issues facing the community. By increasing local ownership and responsibility it supports a bottom up approach that fosters sustainable monitoring independent of donor funding.


            For their use of innovative methods to fight forest crime, PLCN were awarded the UNDP-backed 2015 Equator Initiative Prize at COP21 in Paris and the 2017 Yale International Society for Tropical Foresters (ISTF) Innovation Prize. In 2018, the project "It's Our Forest Too" also won the University of Copenhagen Innovation Prize for their open and innovative use of new technology to create social impact in Cambodia. In 2019, PLCN won the Energy Globe award for Cambodia.

            Equator Prize Logo
            ISTF Award
            University of Copenhagen logo
            Energy Globe Award 2019

            Press Coverage

              phnom penh post
              CPH post online
              new republic


                Web Essentials remains a trusted provider for the ongoing mobile and web app development, technical project management, training and maintenance.