Amy Turner, Portfolio, Programmes and Operational Readiness Manager at Vodafone UK

How an employee idea developed into a solution tackling the human-wildlife conflict

Just three short years into her career at Vodafone, Amy Turner is already making a big impact. Working her way up the ranks, she currently manages a team of 13 people while also co-leading on a huge technology project aimed at mitigating the human-wildlife conflict.

“The most enjoyment I get is from working with the team to overcome all the challenges that are thrown at us on a daily basis,” says Amy.

“I also feel very lucky that I’ve been able to bring my external passion for wildlife to work, through m-Twiga.”

Diving into wildlife solutions

m-Twiga, Amy’s brainchild, is a solution Vodafone is developing to help rural communities and wildlife co-exist. In some parts of the world, when their habitats overlap, humans and animals have to compete for resources. Which can lead to negative consequences such as loss of property, livelihoods or even life itself.

“When I joined Vodafone, I was becoming very aware of the human-wildlife conflict as an emerging threat to species such as elephants and lions. Ever since I joined, I thought there must be something in our IoT portfolio we can leverage to solve what WWF describes as one of the biggest threats to biodiversity,” Amy recalls.

“I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife. It started on the marine side as I’m an avid diver. I’ve been diving all over the world and around five years ago I started getting into conservation, specifically in Africa. I fell in love with the continent, the people, the stories, the wildlife and the landscapes.”

Amy Turner, Portfolio, Programmes and Operational Readiness Manager at Vodafone UK

Starting a podcast called This Wild Life Conservation in 2020, Amy has had the privilege of speaking to a range of conservationists, from wildlife vets, to specialist helicopter pilots, marine biologists, and anti-poaching rangers.

Sharing their stories from the frontline, the human-wildlife conflict was often mentioned and she tells us how she couldn’t help but be inspired to try and use technology to help humans and wildlife co-exist.

Then, in 2022, she saw an opportunity to enter her idea for an AI alert and deterrent solution into an internal innovation programme. The idea, aimed at preventing predation of livestock and deterring elephants from causing infrastructure and crop damage, was selected as a winner.

Receiving funding to get the project off the ground, she quickly joined forces with Joe Griffin, Senior Sustainability Manager at Vodafone, who saw the potential in her idea. They now co-lead the project together.

Through Amy’s existing conservation network, the skill of Vodafone’s tech team in Newbury and Joe’s energy and experience within sustainability, they’ve made it happen.

Taking the tech to Kenya

In January 2023, Joe, Amy and the tech team, were able to test the technology for the first time. Capturing footage of lions, hyenas and wolves at Longleat Safari Park, UK, they were able to calibrate the AI and assess how well the solution could recognise each species and send alerts.

Amy Turner, Portfolio, Programmes and Operational Readiness Manager at Vodafone UK

Fast forward a year, and the team is now taking the solution to Kenya for further testing and AI development.

“I'd say the logistics for this test phase have been challenging. We’re out in the field, in the Masai Mara. It’s a really wild place. We’re staying in a camp which has no fences, amongst the wildlife. It's very exciting to get two m-Twiga prototypes into the environment they’ve been built for. It feels like we’re introducing them to their natural habitat for the first time,” says Amy.

“I’m hopeful we'll come back with everything we need to further improve the AI model and understand how the hardware and software performs in a field environment.”

Involved in every aspect of the project, Amy does admit it’s been challenging at times, but she’s seen first-hand the impact this technology could have.

Not just in Africa, but in other parts of the world facing human-wildlife conflict. Whether that’s protecting wolves in Sweden, bears in Canada or tigers in India. The potential to change lives of humans and wildlife is enormous.

Going for Gold

Problem solving doesn’t faze Amy. In her day job at Vodafone, she works in the Business Care, Billing and Collections function in Vodafone Business UK led by Richard Maynard.

“The job requires constant problem solving so the team can continue to support business growth, whilst ensuring the operational teams and frontline are primed for key deliveries such as flagship product launches – I really enjoy the relentlessly fast-paced nature of our work,” says Amy.

“My operational experience has helped pushed m-Twiga forward, and equally I apply the learnings from developing m-Twiga into my day role. I’m also extremely thankful to be supported by my manager, Szilvia Pricopi Karim who’s always supported us to take opportunities to learn and improve.”

And Amy isn’t one to shy away from new experiences.

Back in 2014, she took up Sprint Kayaking during her first year of university as part of the National Girls4Gold talent identification programme, she then joined the Olympic Development programme and quickly went on to represent Great Britain internationally.

“I ended up racing at multiple World Championships, European Championships, World Cups. It really was a very unique experience with huge highs and lows,” she says of the experience.

So why the change to work in tech?

“I felt like I had gotten everything that I wanted out of the sport,” Amy explains. “I was excited for a new chapter.”

That’s when she applied for the graduate programme at Vodafone.

“Getting onto the graduate scheme was a massive achievement and something that I was so proud of,” she beams. “It has opened so many doors for me.”

Naturally, Amy got stuck in straight away, co-founding Vodafone's Global Youth Network alongside Ishmael Bawumia and Emma Halmshaw, bringing together graduates from across the business, as well as being part of the United Nations SDG Young Innovators programme.

“I think that was the first time that I'd been able to really explore my passion for the SDGs and technology alongside my role at Vodafone,” says Amy.

So, what’s next for this highflyer?

“I’m really driven to continuously improve and gain experience. Being relatively new to my current role I’m motivated by how we, as a team, can find ways to maximise our potential and further support the business,” she says.

“As for m-Twiga, the increasing urgency to help reduce conflict between humans and wildlife is what drives this project forward. Our next milestone will be to deploy m-Twiga in rural communities as part of a community pilot phase.”