The creative use of Information Technology for development remains one of the key challenges in the digital age. While development assistance has always been provided with sustainability in mind, all too often technology has lagged behind in this effort. The goal to realistically and practically transfer technology from north to south remains elusive. The Johannesburg Summit offers a useful opportunity for reflection and hopefully will generate some innovative thinking on the use of technology for achieving sustainability. The Case for Partnerships The PrepComs leading up to the summit have included some healthy debates on a wide range of economic, social and environmental issues, with the underlying agenda of poverty alleviation and the need for global consensus and action. The reaffirmation in Bali to encourage business and industry to showcase sustainable development partnerships is a golden opportunity for the private sector to do concrete projects on the ground to bridge the north-south divide. The commitment of the scientific and technological communities to improve collaboration between scientists and policymakers provides real impetus for progress. While aid is an essential component for helping the 2 billion plus men, women and children who live below $2 per day, there is growing consensus that sustainability depends in large part on trade, investment, and transfer of technology. The multi-stakeholder dialogue for World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) underscored also the importance of good governance and accountability, protection of human rights, democratic participation, especially for women in the decision-making and capacity-building process. The Secretary General of the Summit, Mr. Nitin Desai, expects the summit to focus on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by 147 Heads of State and Government, and 189 Member States in total in the Millennium Declaration. Key expected outcomes of WSSD will be political declaration from heads of state, a plan of implementation that builds on the achievements made since Rio and commits governments to undertake concrete measures and actions (“Type I”), and finally “Type II” partnerships and initiatives, involving business and other sectors of society, translating the “Type I” commitments into specific actions. It is clear that these two types of outcomes of the WSSD are closely interrelated, and that one cannot go without the other.
Moreover, the PrepComs have generated considerable interest from business and industry in developing practical applications in developing countries, in particular in least developed countries (LDCs) and Small Island developing States as well as in countries with economies in transition, and have enabled some of their concerns to be placed in the world trade agenda. These understandings are obvious and basic building blocks for partnerships and initiatives for implementing Agenda 21, and are likely to be engines of growth in developing countries. The Case for Government-led Business Coalitions The international community must build on the successes of Monterey and ensure that they flow into Johannesburg. The commitment by the United States and the European Union to increase ODA offers much hope towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Developing countries need to respond to this gesture through improved governance and by creating an enabling environment for effective management of the aid process with a view to transparency and accountability. They can also take steps to facilitate trade and investment and encourage new business incubation. The heightened interest in Type II initiatives provides an ideal opportunity for governments, civil society, including academia, NGOs and the private sector to form broad coalitions for implementing the MDGs. Trade and industry associations and new and emerging alliances of companies with like-minded agendas can be tapped from an investment perspective to showcase the voluntary partnerships proposed for WSSD. The national and international chambers of commerce, regional business groups, such as the Corporate Council for Africa, can be rich sources of expertise and experience for working together. The renewed commitment for Africa through the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) is another entry-point for Type II and beyond, which recently summed very clearly by President Thabo Mbeki in his comments on “Africa’s New Realism”: The momentum for sustained development, in partnership with the private sector, is based on a recognition that it is possible to revive poor nations, particularly in Africa through investments for mutual benefit. Thus, governments should foster opportunities to promote coalitions for investment projects. A group that could be actively engaged in this effort is the foundation community. After all, they need a product to support and do not simply wish to be seen as a funding stream, but as an active partner looking towards social return on capital.
Organisations like the Council on Foundations and the European Foundation Centre are keen to collaborate and support international initiatives, and could serve as nerve centres for this effort by thinking globally and acting locally. They could thus help in creating a new culture of philanthropy at the national level for achieving Millennium Goals. In addition, as was cited in an article by Professors CK Prahalad and Stuart Hart in the journal Strategy + Business earlier this year, multinational companies investing in developing countries are challenged to marry local capabilities and market knowledge with global best practices. ICT can play a critical role in facilitating this. When we then talk of partnerships for sustainable development, it is so important that large companies include SMEs in their partnerships. By doing this, they will improve their ability to deliver appropriate services locally, whilst at the same time supporting local business development. Partnerships that join not only large companies with NGOs and local authorities, but also local small business help bring about greater transfer of skills and know-how. Improved access to and use of ICT is needed to forge such win-win partnerships worldwide. The UN system has been showing the way in developing multistakeholders partnerships, also involving the private sector. To quote Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “Creating wealth – which is business’s expertise, and promoting human security in the broadest sense – the UN’s main concern, are mutually reinforcing goals”. ICT as a key driver “ICT should be seen as an integral component of sustainable development strategies, not merely as a valuable industry in its own right”
Industry as a partner for sustainable development. Information and Communications Technology (GeSI)1.The WSSD model for partnerships has laid out some key areas where Type II initiatives could serve as models for collaboration. The UN Secretary-General’s call to focus on WEHAB Water and sanitation, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Biodiversity to develop an ambitious yet achievable programme of practical steps is a rallying cry to all of us. In all of the WEHAB sectors, information and communication technology can be effectively utilised to implement programmes and projects. ICTs should be considered as drivers and efficiency mechanisms for delivery of sustainable technical assistance and it does not always have to be high-tech. Simple management and administrative capacity building are stepping-stones to good government and accountability. The challenge is not to see ICTs as an adjunct for development, but to integrate them into projects for maximum results. There is a need for a bottom-up model that makes communication, information, energy sources and other self-help tools directly available to communities. Just consider the possible impact modern-day software can have, which enables modelling and simulation of waste-water treatment plants, rivers, sewers, chemical and fermentation processes to map out existing systems, detect deficiencies and provide possible solutions; or of Telecentres which, not only provide learning, health care, banking and 1Global e-Sustainability Initiative government services, but also information on soil and environmental testing. In addition, as noted in the Final Report of the Digital Opportunity Initiative2, ICT applications can be used to reduce the consumption of energy, water and other essential natural resources through more efficient agriculture and industrial procedures. For example, precision agriculture techniques using GIS and GPS systems can facilitate weather and soil monitoring, crop forecasting and the ability to optimise farm return on investment ensuring more efficient use of scarce resources. In the future, ICT may also play an important role in the fight against pollution-not only by providing more useful metrics and information, but also by enabling population decentralization and large-scale telecommuting. There are numerous examples and success stories of how, with minimal effort and additions of technology, development projects are able to enhance local capacity and leave something more behind for future generations.
Developing countries could also take advantage of the mechanisms already tested in developed countries. The eEurope 2005 Action Plan, for instance, provides some good ideas for strengthening public institutions, which could be replicated. From the eEurope model, a case can be made for an eAfrica initiative through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD, by twinning individual EU country successes with African country needs. For example, the EU and NEPAD could develop an eAfrica fellowship programme through Open Universities on the Internet for all of the WEHAB sectors. This way, information and technology transfer could take place on a systematic basis on a country-by-country and sector-by-sector basis. Within the UN system, for example, the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics in partnership with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has supported the creation of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) which brings together information and communications technology service providers and suppliers to address issues such as environmental management, corporate reporting, outreach and the role of information and communication technology in advancing sustainable development. www.gesi.orgThe Internet is an ideal tool for opening access to information. With a one-time effort of putting documents on the Internet, these can be made available to the world community for ever. Although the cataloguing and research facilitation have yet to be developed, the successor to the current Internet will most likely address a number of these issues. It is worth recalling the GeSI Report “Industry as a partner for sustainable development, information and communications technology” which so well states: for ICT to be an effective facilitator of sustainable development, it is essential that governments, civil 2The Digital Opportunity Initiative (DOI), a public private partnership of Accenture, the Markle Foundationand the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was launched at the G-8 Okinawa Summit in 2000, with the aim of identifying the roles that information and communication technologies (ICT) can play in fostering sustainable economic development and enhancing social equity.
Society and the business community co-operate to create the conditions for the sector to help improve the competitive position of developing countries and reduce the environmental impact of developed economies. What can be done? “In our technological civilization in which knowledge is the main source of added value, information technology, which makes new knowledge accessible to those who are in the front lines of development particularly the poorest has immense potential to empower them to improve their livelihoods and enhance their futures.” Mr. Maurice F. Strong, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (The Rio Summit) and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General. There are a number of things that can be done. The UN system can offer a range of project ideas and most websites can be useful sources of information. In November 2001, Secretary-General Kofi Annan established the UN ICT Task Force to provide overall leadership to the United Nations role in helping to formulate strategies for the development of information and communication technologies and putting those technologies at the service of development and, on the basis of consultations with all stakeholders and Member States, forging a strategic partnership between the United Nations system, private industry and financing trusts and foundations, donors, programme countries and other relevant stakeholders. Several international organisations and associations are already undertaking a variety of partnership projects. ё www.johannesburgsummit.orgё www.wbcsd.orgё www.basd-action.netё www.virtualexhibit.net/index.phpё www.unicttaskforce.orgё www.sdnp.undp.orgё www.uneptie.orgIf one were to look at the five WEHAB areas, some good projects could be considered for application. What follows is simply a small selection, by no means exhaustive, of initiatives underway.
UNICEF PHOTO Water and sanitation The UN Atlas of the Oceans, an Internet portal providing information relevant to the sustainable development of the oceans. The Atlas is designed for policy-makers who need to become familiar with ocean issues and for scientists, students and resource managers who need access to databases and approaches to sustainability. The UN Atlas also provides the ocean industry and stakeholders with pertinent information on ocean matters. The UN Atlas of the Oceans is a partnership between six UN agencies (FAO, IAEA, IMO, UNEP, WMO, UNESCO/IOC), the United Nations Foundation the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and National Geographic Society. Cinegram Media Inc., a private publisher, will be producing CD-ROMs and other media in order to reach a wider audience, particularly among the public and educators. www.oceansatals.orgThe World Water Actions Inventory aims to list and display all actions that are synthesized in the final report being prepared by the Water Action Unit for the 3rd World Water Forum (Kyoto, March 2003) and too solicit reactions on the information provided and encourage public contributions, in order to report on water actions being implemented in some parts of the world that are not yet inventoried by the Water Action Unit. www.worldwatercouncil.org/search_actions.phpEnergy The Greenstar Village Center initiative brings portable community centres to villages using solar power generated by large photovoltaic panels. The solar power drives water purifiers, small clinics, vaccine coolers, classrooms, digital studios and satellite or wireless links to the Internet. As a result of the Internet linkage, e-commerce websites are developed, employing local musicians, teachers and art professionals to record the voice of the community. Greenstar packages the materials for various markets, both direct to the consumer, and through licensing to businesses. This formula provides new jobs and skills, strengthens local culture and language, and affirms people’s independence. Income from this “digital culture” is used to fund an ongoing, community-driven process of literacy, local business, education and training, public health, and environmental programs. www.greenstar.comEduSol and Enersol are bringing a small array of PV modules and a computer to selected rural schools in unelectrified areas. As teachers and students gain basic computer skills, schools will be connected via cellular telephones to the Internet.
Enersol will partner with IEARN, an NGO with over ten years of experience connecting children and teachers around the globe www.iearn.orgWith USAID support, Winrock International (WI) is working with Sandia National Laboratories and New Mexico State University (NMSU) to support the use of renewable energy systems in rural distance education in Mexico and Central America. Mexico is a leader in the use of distance education to serve rural areas has developed its Telesecundaria Program for rural middle-school students. A network of over 15,000 distance learning schools (telesecundarias), are using distance education to reach over 900,000 students. WI is working with the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education’s Educational Television Unit (SEP/UTE) and several state-level education agencies. Most Central American countries are adopting or piloting their own telesecundarias based on the Mexico model. Lenders, including the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, have recognized the importance of these programs for expanding access to education and have been supporting these initial efforts. In Brazil, USAID, Winrock and the Bahia State Small Rural Producers Association (APAEB) cost-shared the installation of a solar-powered PC to provide a new educational tool in one of the most drought-stricken areas of the country, the Avani de Cunha Lima Agricultural Family School in Valente. The federal Ministry of Mines and Energy donated a 2 kW PV array to the school through the National Program for the Energy Development of States and Municipalities (PRODEEM). Winrock installed the array, which tripled the available energy. The school now has enough energy that the 120 persons who work, live and study there can use the TV, VCR, antennas, radio, a refrigerator for food and vaccines and other appliances. APAEB is discussing a project extension with USAID and Winrock to install five more PCs in the classrooms and buy a rural cell phone to allow connection to the Internet. Myeka High in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa has no electricity, no running water and no telephone lines, but it does have the largest library in the world. With solar PV, a satellite dish, solar-powered computers and wireless Internet access, the students now have unlimited amounts of virtual information at their fingerprints.
Winrock was involved in the training and mobilization of the local NGOs and Mangosuthu Technikon that support the school project. Direct funding for the PV array came from Eskom and the computers and technical assistance were provided through the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). www.myeka.co.za Health The Health InterNetwork, proposed by the UN Secretary-General with his Millennium Report, is an initiative led by the World Health Organisation, to improve public health by facilitating the flow of health information, using the Internet. It enables public health care workers, researchers, and policy-makers in developing countries to gain access to a wide range of authoritative and up-to-date health information and advice. The goal is to make health information relevant, timely and appropriate unrestricted and affordable worldwide, so that all communities can benefit. The initiative brings together international agencies, the private sector, foundations, nongovernmental organizations and country partners under the principle of ensuring equitable access to health information. http://www.healthinternetwork.orgOneWorld’s AIDS Radio portal offers services and networking for broadcasters and civil society organisations who are interested in using radio/audio to promote awareness, news and public education on HIV and AIDS. Radio reaches more people than any other communication medium – unrestricted by borders, literacy or gender – and, in the fight against HIV/AIDS, is a hugely important communication tool. The OneWorld Radio AIDS Network audio exchange is a platform for the free exchange of programmes between stations and organisations across the world, offering access to a wide variety of excellent programmes addressing many aspects of AIDS awareness. www.oneworld.net/radio/aidsIndia Health Care Project makes use of IT for delivering quality health care to the rural population. It aims to reduce or eliminate the redundant entry of data prevalent in paper registers, generate automatically Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs’) monthly reports, and make data electronically available for further analysis and compilation at higher levels of the health care system. It will train the health workers in the use of Personal Digital Assistance (PDAs) to process data with ease. The PDAs are designed to cater to the semi-literate levels of the health workers. The 40-60% reduction in time for the health workers to process the data can be used to deliver quality health care. CMC Limitedis partnering with Apple Computer Inc. USA, the Centre for Diffusion of Information Technology (CDIT) the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India and the World Bank. UNICEF PHOTO Agriculture The M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation’s Information Village Research Project (IVRP) in the Union Territory of Pondicherry aims at delivering electronic knowledge to the poor. So far ten villages near Pondicherry in southern India have been connected by a hybrid wired and wireless network consisting of PCs, telephones, VHF duplex radio devices and email connectivity through dial-up telephone lines.
This facilitates both voice and data transfer, and have enabled the villagers to get information that they need and can use to improve their lives. Areas covered include agriculture, health, education, cattle and feed. The project emphasizes an integrated pro-poor, pro-women, pro-nature orientation to development and community ownership of technological tools against personal or family ownership, and encourages collective action for spread of technology. The bottom up exercise involves local volunteers to gather information, feed it into an Intranet and provide access through nodes in different villages. All centres evolved themselves to meet the information demands made by the community. The project is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Ford Foundation and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Pondicherry. www.mssrf.orgThe World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for agricultural information management and dissemination, in an effort to fight hunger with information. WAICENT is a strategic programme for improving access to essential documents, statistics, maps and multimedia resources to millions of users around the globe. The information includes: full-text publications and technical documents on agriculture, fisheries, nutrition and forestry; data, including maps and charts, obtained through the FAO online statistical databases, containing records covering international statistics in the area of agricultural production, trade indices, food supply, land and food aid.
WAICENT is one of the world’s most comprehensive sources of agricultural information, providing access to the accumulated knowledge and expertise of FAO, improving the capacities of decision-makers, professionals and the public-at-large to obtain and use information essential for achieving sustainable agriculture development and helping to combat hunger. www.fao.org/waicentGeographic data are vital for the execution of development projects. Using ICT, a number of UN entities (Cartographic Section of the Department of Public Information, the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peace-keeping Operations and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) are putting together a global geographic database, consisting of basic cartographic elements and toponymic information, which will be made available to users through the Internet. In addition, a strategic plan to fully implement the database will be devised, as well as the creation of a geographic data clearinghouse. This project is a crucial capacity building effort for developing countries that otherwise cannot afford such technology. Geographic data in the form of digital maps and satellite imagery are fundamental and indispensable for environmental assessment and monitoring. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is developing an Agricultural Business Information System (ABIS) to provide stakeholders in the industry with data on crop production and marketing, a ‘one stop shop’ computer-based system for agricultural information. The ABIS’s primary objective is to develop the capacity and competitiveness of Jamaica’s agricultural sector through the use of information and communication technologies. Funding for the development and implementation of the system is being provided with grants from the Ministry of Agriculture, the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD), and the European Union (EU) through the Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project (EJASP).
Marty Katz for The New York Times, 2 July 2002BiodiversityThe Interactive Map Service (IMapS) project3, aims to provide online, immediate access to biodiversity and social data for use in emergency oil spills and provide key environmental information for strategic planning and impact assessments. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International’s multi-faceted project (in partnership with Georgia Tech, Clark Atlanta University and the National University of Rwanda) promotes study of the gorillas’ fragile habitat, to help determine how many gorillas the land can support, to assess habitat loss and to better manage protected areas. The project makes use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) centre in Rwanda, with emphasis on remote sensing technology. Virtual environments are created for training students in Africa and in the United States on how to use the technology, and finding ways to replicate this scientific model in other parts of Africa where endangered species live.
www.gorillafund.orgReefBase is an online information system on coral reefs, designed to provide relevant data and information to reef managers and scientists, as well as the general public. It facilitates better understanding of the inter-dependencies between humans and coral reefs, in order to benefit management and conservation efforts of these important resources. It allows gathering of available knowledge about coral reefs into one information repository. The information in ReefBase facilitates analyses and monitoring of coral reef health and the quality of life of reef-dependent people, and supports informed decisions about coral reef use and management.
www.reefbase.orgGlobal Forest Watch is an international network of more than 90 local forest groups linked by the Internet. It aims to slow forest degradation around the world as well as infuse transparency and accountability into the industry. GFW uses a combination of satellite imagery, Geographic Information Systems mapping software, the Internet and on-the-ground observation to record forest coverage and condition, including where and how forest product companies are cutting. GFW compares the activity to forest leases to identify illegal cutting. These maps are posted on the Internet, naming specific companies that fail to comply with environmental policies and agreements. The group is already operating in 8 countries, and plans to cover 25 countries within a few years. It has negotiated agreements with IKEA, Home Depot, Loews and other major forest 3Led by IPIECA (International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association) in cooperation with the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) product retailers that constitute 40 percent of the North American market. The retailers have pledged to source only from sustainably managed forests and forest companies and have agreed to use GFW’s expanding database to guide their buying.
GFW also provides governments, local communities, consumers and activists with information about what is happening to the forests, enabling the promotion and establishment of successful forest management practices.
Preliminary results indicate that GFW can produce information that is not obtainable by satellitesystems and exceeds that currently available to governments and United Nations agencies. www.globalforestwatch.orgFacilitating technology transfer As demonstrated above, ICT is a key driver for sharing information and knowledge, and therefore is facilitating technology transfer. For example, the Sustainable Alternatives Network (SANet).
www.SustainableAlternatives.net, a project within the UNEP/ GEF partnership, aimed at assisting informed business decision-making to ease the implementation of the Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs). To facilitate environmentally and financially viable investments, SANet’s website is offered to technology transfer practitioners to share their success stories, know-how and other information most relevant to their work. SANet does not create new institutions, but strengthens existing information exchange networks across different MEAs and sectors. For example, it links with clearinghouse functions to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition achieve their compliance targets under the Montreal Protocol.
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