TECH4ALL: Not Just an Initiative, Also A Life Transforming Movement


    Jul 04, 2024

    When joining Huawei several months ago, I started to look in to TECH4ALL, the company’s long-term digital inclusion initiative and action plan. Now it is my understanding that, through TECH4ALL, Huawei puts into action its mission and vision to bring digital technology to every person, home, and organization to for a fully connected and intelligent world.

    Theoretically, it sounds amazing, ambitious and exceptional, but I often wonder: Will this initiative really work and help to deliver such a mission and vision?  

    I was assigned to a TECH4ALL project in Mexico. With a focus on using digital technologies and AI for biodiversity protection, this project is one of the flagship projects under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-Huawei Tech4Nature partnership.

    We are currently about to finish Phase One that has sought, through continuous monitoring of biodiversity and the use of image and acoustic monitoring devices and AI systems, to identify and classify priority species, such as the jaguar, which inhabit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

    The aim is to provide better protection for them in the medium and long term and support transparent and informed decision-making based on data, thus driving the conservation and effective regeneration of biodiversity.

    It was challenging for me to join the project at this point. It was a busy time for all the parties involved: the conclusion stage for Phase One and also a stage of preparations for Phase Two. I was trying hard to understand the why, the who, the when, the what, and the how of this project. 

    The first thing I did to get up to speed was to watch a video about this project on Huawei’s website. All the involved parties shared their views about the importance of protecting the Dzilam State Reserve’s biodiversity, specifically focusing on jaguar conservation. In the southeast of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula covers around 197,600 square kilometers and boasts a coastline as long as 1,100 kilometers. Its diverse ecosystem includes tropical rainforests, coral reefs, sand dunes, coastal lagoons, caves, underground rivers, and nearly 190 square kilometers of mangroves.

    In 1989, the Mexican government established the Dzilam State Reserve in the Yucatan Peninsula. Spreading over an area of 690 square kilometers, the reserve is rich in habitats of rare and endemic species. 

    The start of an adventure

    My real adventure started the day I was asked to travel to Yucatan, where the project takes place, to truly understand the project scope and to meet the project participants. I was asked to help the team to close Phase One and to finalize the plan details for the coming phase. When I arrived in Merida, which is Yucatan’s capital city, I took a pickup van and drove over 100 kilometers to get to Dzilam de Bravo, which is the closest location from the State Reserve. I was a little bit nervous and anxious, thinking of the strange place and people I was about to see and meet. 

    On my arrival, I met Regina (Project Manager at a women-led non-profit organization C-Minds that promotes the responsible development, use, and research of pioneering technologies for multidisciplinary projects in Latin America), Toshio (Director of Environmental Management at the Ministry of the Sustainability Development of Yucatan), and community leaders, who are people from Dzilam de Bravo collaborating in the project by collecting information from the devices installed in the reserve. All were very enthusiastic about the project and they were eager to show me around the reserve; also they were excited about explaining details about the project.

    As I soon found out, having a conversation with them and listening to them sharing their experiences on the project made me feel truly connected and related. 

    It was about 10 o’clock in the morning, and we departed from Dzilam de Bravo for the reserve by driving two pickup vans, one of which I was driving. I followed the van driven by Toshio for about half an hour. Suddenly, he stopped his van and told me that it was better to let someone from their team drive my pickup for the remaining part of the road leading directly to the reserve. I was confused, assuming that that section of the road must be very complicated going forward. The remainder of the trip took us about another 40 minutes driving on a dirt road full of stones, mud, and huge potholes where the driver had to be extremely careful not to hurt the vegetation or curious animals that might show up from nowhere. Finally, we arrived at Juan Castillo’s parcel, located at the entrance to the Dzilam State Reserve. 

    A cenote the entrance of Dzilam State Reserve

    As soon as we left the cars, we were overwhelmed by the heat and humidity; we were right under the sun at 40℃. I remember looking all around the place, amazed at the wonders it presented while hoping to see a jaguar and thinking, “what if a jaguar should actually appear and get very close to us?” As it turned out, however, we were only attractive to the mosquitoes that happily sucked our blood, leaving us all bitten. This brought back to me my memory of chicken pox in my childhood. 

    After applying mosquito repellent all over, even over our clothes, we could finally enjoy the wonders of nature. There was a cenote, a natural subterranean water pit, where some crocodiles were swimming. Regina showed us some cameras and microphones, similar to those installed in the reserve. Being in contact with nature and imagining those devices installed in the jungle, the group got increasingly excited. Then, Toshio made the great suggestion that we should walk into the jungle until the first surveillance camera was found. 

    Our guide, Benjamin, took us throughout the jungle, clearing the way for us with a machete. Walking in the jungle exposed us to toxic plants and also to the danger of getting bitten by ants or other poisonous insects. The project team, though, had gotten used to this type of danger since they collected data monthly from all the cameras and audio devices installed over an area of 30 square kilometers, which deployed under the project. 

    Regina Cervera (r) shows the Huawei team samples of cameras and microphones similar to those installed in the reserve (Armando is on the left) 

    It took us about 40 minutes to walk some 500 meters to get to the first camera installation. As we got closer to the camera surveillance point, the jungle became denser. There was no mobile signal and Toshio explained that inexperienced people could easily get lost walking alone. Once we spotted the camera, we then returned to the cars. My memories of the walk were of an exuberant jungle, many mosquito bites, a couple of ant attacks, and the wonder of watching crocodiles in the cenote, as well as the marvel of watching a gray fox just passing us by.

    We returned to Dzilam de Bravo and had a delicious lunch of seafood and traditional dishes, where we listened to the team share their stories of jaguar spotting and of how the community’s mindset had been changing since the start of this project. And we were glad to hear that there was a high level of community commitment to protecting the Dzilam State Reserve. Because of this project, we were told that illegal-logging incidents had decreased from roughly five to one a month.  

    Finally, the last item on my agenda before returning was to have a conversation with all the participants to follow up on the Phase One closure and to discuss the plan for Phase Two of the project.

    For this meeting, Toshio invited us to the ministry’s temporary facilities in Dzilam de Bravo. This was a place next to the beach. In the beginning we thought that we were going to an office where we could provide a formal presentation about the project, but when we arrived there, it was a cabin with not enough chairs for us all. So, the formal presentation I had planned turned into an exciting brain storming meeting.

    Regina and Toshio expressed their interest in expanding the scope of this project in terms of the identification of other big felines in the reserve. On this trip I was accompanied by Yao, Head of Strategy and Marketing, Huawei Latin America, who explained to the group what TECH4ALL is and the importance of continuing with this project. In the end, we all felt supported by each other; with a sense of camraderi where we were convinced that together we could get better results. 

    Brainstorming meeting attended by representatives and leaders of Huawei and partners (Toshio standing)

    I was also inspired by Toshio’s passion for nature. He always had an explanation about every plant, bird and animal, calling everything by its scientific name. One day during our visit to the reserve, I recall, I mentioned to him my disappointment at never seeing any jaguar. Later, Toshio shared with me some pictures of jaguars, taken by the cameras, and also some photos of a jaguar’s footprints – the evidence of its presence in the reserve. 

    Nowadays I am convinced that this project has transformed the mindsets of those who are involved in it and that it has changed the minds, habits, and aspirations of the general public in Yucatan. There are children who, inspired by this project, have chosen to study and prepare for a science and technology career. This project has brought some technology consciousness to the local community and government that have adopted technology to solve day-to-day problems. As for us at Huawei, we are training digital tech professionals at the Polytechnic University of Yucatan, whose students are developing the AI algorithm, which makes jaguar’s recognition possible by using Huawei Cloud

    At the end of the day my mindset has also changed. Now I know the value of this project and, personally, I have a sense of ownership regarding it. To me, it is clear that Huawei is making its mission and vision come true. For this I feel proud to be a member of a business organization that is committed to innovation and inclusion and whose actions are capable of transforming lives. 

    Learn more about Huawei's TECH4ALL and the IUCN-Huawei Tech4Nature partnership.

    Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.


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