Three days following a spell of online attacks beginning on October 6, 2019, IQAir AirVisual announced that the AirVisual app was restored for download on the GooglePlay and Apple AppStore in Vietnam.
Thousands of people took the time to write to AirVisual and share their support for the AirVisual app and platform. This was instrumental not only in allowing AirVisual services to resume in the country, but it also further demonstrated the overwhelming strength and resolve of the community in Vietnam to raise awareness about the environment and tackle the air pollution problem.
Efforts like this meant to suppress open and free air pollution data, rather than address the emission sources that have created the problem, are misguided and have negative health and environmental implications.
While the attacks have decreased over time, they are still ongoing. Air Quality Experts at IQAir AirVisual closely monitor these situations and aim to continue to provide stable services in spite of political machinations aimed at undermining air quality data services.
During these periods, supportive comments and app reviews can make a tremendous difference. In the event that the app is ever taken down again, Vietnamese users can access Hanoi air quality data and Ho Chi Minh City air pollution data on the AirVisual website.
The increased engagement on the topic of local air pollution in Vietnam has since led to a constructive discussion about what can be done to improve air quality and people’s health in Vietnam that persists to this day.
Clearing the air
Amidst periods of heightened pollution in October 2019, Hanoi at times topped the AirVisual Major City Ranking, a live, hourly air pollution ranking of 90 major global cities.
On October 6, 2019, a coordinated online attack disparaged AirVisual’s data-reporting services and credibility. It appeared to be based on a misunderstanding of how AirVisual collects and reports its data, particularly with regards to what the Major City Ranking represents.
The purpose of the Major City Ranking is to help raise awareness that air pollution is a global problem that affects everyone. Rather than simply ranking every settlement around the world that reports live air quality data, AirVisual’s Air Pollution Major City Ranking serves to highlight air quality in major global cities.
In addition to the Major City Ranking list being limited to approximately 90 major cities, it is also important to note that the ranking is live, updating several times per hour. So when a city tops the list, this is not to say that that city has the worst air quality in the world ever, but rather the worst air quality at that moment in time of the 90 ranked cities.
For alternative insights into how cities compare based on longer-term data, IQAir AirVisual compiled a detailed ranking that compares over 3,000 global cities during 2018, based on their total measurements during that year.
View the full 2018 World Air Quality Report page to explore this long-term data.
The global air quality problem is not unique
Sharing pollution data has long been sensitive in countries and communities around the world. Yet it is a critical first step for driving air quality improvements.
Air quality data plays an important part in empowering people to protect their health and effect policy change. A strong history of this effect has been observed in cities around the world:
- Beijing, China - In 2008, tweets from the US Embassy in Beijing were the first to publicly expose the city’s air quality status. New access to data increased public awareness and mounted pressure on the Chinese government to act. In 2013, the Chinese government responded by implementing a comprehensive and transparent nationwide air pollution monitoring system. The new data helped to set a benchmark and targets for China’s emissions reduction policy.
- Lahore, Pakistan - A local resident’s monitoring network was the first to reveal the air pollution status in Lahore, Pakistan. The data had an explosive impact on the community, as it allowed for the differentiation of air pollution from fog and prompted a public interest petition that was escalated to Lahore’s High Court. Today, the data is used to determine whether the city’s schools should close on polluted days.
- Krasnoyarsk, Russia - An activist-organized monitoring network was the first to reveal air quality levels during periods of intense pollution known as “black sky mode”. The community platform which was used to share the city’s real-time data amassed a dedicated social media following, and their continued campaign efforts led to commitments from local government to act on reducing city emissions.
Other stories include a Mongolian network in Ulaanbaatar established by humanitarian aid organization, People In Need, to track the impacts of coal-burning on vulnerable communities; nearly 1,000 new air monitors in Bangkok used to determine school policy to better safeguard children’s health; and networks in Jakarta and greater Indonesia, supported by citizens and NGOs, which share data with local residents.