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Educational app espouses the wonders of wildlife

Educational app espouses the wonders of wildlife

With government and corporates alike onside, nonprofit Kiwipedia is out to make learning about New Zealand’s animals more fun.

Ryan Ghisi says he was surprised and disappointed not to find any apps devoted to New Zealand fauna considering the "incredible array" of wildlife here and decided to create on himself – and thus Kiwipedia was born.

He has spent the last year developing the NZ Fauna app, with the assistance of DOC, Forest and Bird and Te Ara (the Ministry of Culture and Heritage) which granted access to their text and media libraries.

The app allows users to learn about species through images, audio, video and text, he says.

“When I first started formulating the idea back in January, the intention was for it to be aimed at pre-school NZ kids. But I soon realised that an application aimed at showcasing New Zealand’s flora and fauna would be of great benefit to Kiwis, both young and old.

"Then I thought, why limit it to New Zealanders? Tourists visiting New Zealand would find it extremely interesting and educational and it would allow them to identify many of our native and introduced species.”

Kiwipedia recruited Wellington’s Touchtech to develop the app, and Auckland design company Designahead to design it. And when it came time to promote it, the award-winning Air New Zealand marketing department stepped in to help identify relevant media channels.

Ghisi spent five months applying for funding before the Air NZ Environmental Trust, ASB Community Trust and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage agreed to cover the development costs.

Other sources of funding came through his $500 cash win for his idea at the Community Economic Development conference in April 2011, along with a third-place award in the Hothouse Sowing the Seeds competition.

Ghisi says they worked on a shoestring, with Designahead agreeing to provide pro-bono services.

"They took the idea from a functional prototype and transformed it into the beautiful, polished product we have now”.

Christchurch’s Orly Productions also worked pro bono to handle the voice recordings, supplied by environmentalists Ruud Kleinpaste and Nicola Vallance.

The app has been successful overseas, according to Ghisi, with more than 800 downloads from Europe, Asia and Mexico. The app is free for download on iOS and Android through the relevant app stores.

So where to next for Kiwipedia?

Ghisi is following up with an NZ Flora app and working on a bird identification app for Forest and Bird.

"I have lots of other ideas in the pipeline, but funding is always an issue.”