Clinton Global Initiative University 2016

Blum Ambassadors Jason Lyle and Chau Ho Selected for Clinton Global Initiative University Summit


Jason Lyle presented his rural soil data analysis service “smsSoil” and Chau Ho presented her project on reducing homelessness at the 2016 Clinton Global Initiative University at UC Berkeley on April 1st.

Irvine, Calif., April. 1, 2016.

Two Blum Ambassador students, Jason Lyle and Chau Ho attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) summit to represent UC Irvine. Lyle and Ho presented their “Commitments to Action” which centered upon the UCI Blum Center’s mission of poverty alleviation. Lyle is a graduating senior in International Studies, and Ho is a graduating senior in Pharmaceutical sciences and Comparative Literature. They make up two of the three UC Irvine students invited to the CGI U summit.

CGI U is a week-long opportunity that allows university students, faculty members, politicians, celebrities, and topic experts to collaborate in developing practical “Commitments to Action.” These commitments are a way to “translate practical goals into meaningful and measurable results.” Applicants submit proposals for the five focus areas: Education, Environment and Climate Change, Poverty Alleviation, Peace and Human rights, and Public Health. CGI U allows for these solutions to be discussed and potentially funded by partnering investors.

Jason Lyle’s Commitment to Action idea is a rural soil data analysis service: smsSoil. His idea is to create a service that would use GIS informatics to deliver geographically-specific soil data to rural farmers. The goal is to convert the cellphone into a powerful tool of agriculture and help farmers increase their outputs by better understanding their land.

“There are over 650 million mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa, a number that is growing by 44% annually,” Lyle said. “Our goal is to turn these phones into powerful tools of agriculture.”

Lyle’s personal trips to Southern Africa inspired him and he received the idea for his Commitment to Action in his UCI Sustainability course.

“After a personal visit to the countries of Swaziland and Lesotho, I returned to UCI for Spring Quarter 2015,” said Lyle. “I was enrolled in Dr. Richard Matthew’s Sustainability II course, in which we explored the intersection of grassroots solutions, technology, and environmental sustainability. What if we could use mobile technology to solve soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion? I then subsequently went out and did some personal, and very preliminary research on the state of soil on the African continent. This was the beginning of smsSoil.”

Chau Ho’s volunteering experience at the Mercy House homeless shelter inspired her project. There, she saw how homelessness affects the neediest of Americans.

“Homelessness, in my opinion, is somewhat an invisible issue,” said Ho. “It’s hard for Americans to visualize homelessness as a relevant issue, because America is one of the wealthiest countries. There are a lot of problems directly incur as a result of homelessness, such as, inaccessibility to food, clothing, and medical care.”

For Ho, the project is personal to her own development.

“My experience volunteering at the homeless shelter is truly an enlightening experience for me because it puts my worries into perspective,” said Ho. “I also got to speak with people from different background and orientation. I think it helps me becoming more informed about the cultural and social sensitivity.”