Tag Archives: ICT

Toyama’s myths of information technology and development

Dr. Kentaro Toyama, a researcher in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, presents 10 myths of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in development that persist despite evidence against them and suggests approaches to build successful projects that use ICT for development.

See also his lead article in a special feature on the Boston Review on “Can technology end poverty.” He writes:

We are in the midst of the largest ICT4D [Information and Communication Technology for Development] experiment ever. In 2009 there were over 4.5 billion active mobile phone accounts, more than the entire population of the world older than twenty years of age. The cell phone is overtaking both television and radio as the most popular consumer electronic device in history. Some 80 percent of the global population is within range of a cell tower, and mobile phones are increasingly seen in the poorest, remotest communities.

These numbers prompt suggestions that there is no longer a “digital divide” for real-time communication. Yet any demographic account of mobile have-nots will show them to be predominantly poor, remote, female, and politically mute. Whatever the case, if the spread of mobile phones is sufficient to help end global poverty, we will know soon enough. But, if it doesn’t, should we then pin our hopes on the next new shiny gadget?

Information and Communication Technologies and Climate Change

Richard Heeks and Angelica Ospina at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics‘ run the blog Notes on ICTs, Climate Change and Development.  Recently Angelica Ospina wrote about ICTs within a Changing Climate:

According to the latest Information Economy Report prepared by UNCTAD [UN conference on trade and development] over the past few years “the penetration rate of mobile phones in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) has surged from 2 to 25 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants”, and is expected that by 2010 the total number of mobile subscriptions will reach 5 billion. …

But what about the role of these technologies towards climate change mitigation, monitoring and adaptation?

Evidence on these linkages is starting to emerge, suggesting that the role of ICTs towards poverty reduction and the strengthening of local livelihoods is closely connected to their potential in enabling developing country communities to better withstand, recover from, and adapt to the changing conditions posed by climate change –what can, overall, be termed ‘resilience’.

There is still much to learn about the role and potential of ICTs in the climate change field, including their effects in strengthening -or weakening- local responses and strategies to climate change-related effects. However, these technologies are integral to processes of experimentation, discovery and innovation, which are, in turn, essential components of learning and key to enable more effective mitigation measures, monitoring, and local adaptive capacities within vulnerable environments.

Spread and mutation of panarchy

The Database of the Self in Hyperconnectivity is a graphic created by Venessa Miemis a Media Studies student, who created the figure for a course project, to communicate different ways people interact with online information (there is also an interactive version).

She used Holling’s adaptive cycle, which she calls a panarchy (but because she misses the x-scale aspect its really an adaptive cyle) to identify contexts in which individuals act, but acknowledges this in a comment discussion.  Its interesting to see resilience thinking ideas pop up in other contexts.

I’m curious to the path by which panarchy moved into media studies (a quick google showed research in tagging classification systems using it) , and I wonder if any of the research on roles of people in environmental management done by Resilience Alliance researchers (e.g. in Panarchy book or Frances Westley, Per Olsson, and Carl Folke‘s work) was carried over with the concept.  However, there are no references and no explanation of how the figure was created, but she does link to an Ecology and Society paper.

Satellites, Google and the Politics of CO2-Monitoring

As the international climate negotiations move into a more intense phase, one additional issue seems to contribute to the deadlock: CO2-monitoring. According to the New York Times (14th December 2009), China “is refusing to accept any kind of international monitoring of its emissions levels”. As a result, the United States is insisting that “without a stringent verification of China’s actions, it cannot support any deal”.

Obviously, any failure to agree on appropriate monitoring mechanisms during COP-15, is likely to have serious repercussions not only for the post-Kyoto agreement in general, but also for the effectiveness of carbon markets, and other reduction mechanisms such as REDD. Luckily, there seems to be a few reasons for optimism, at least in the longer perspective.

Tom Downing at Stockholm Environment Institute-Oxford reports via Twitter, on an initiative launched in collaboration with Internet giant Google, the Carnegie Institute for Science, and Imazon. As Google reports through its official blog, it is now possible to not only view deforestation in Google Earth, but also analyze raw satellite data and “extract extract meaningful information about the world’s forests, such as locations and measurements of deforestation or even regeneration of a forest”.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory

Orbiting Carbon Observatory

What’s more, additional improvements of satellite data seem to be in the pipeline. Despite the failed launch attempt of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) plummeting into the ocean near Antarctica in end of February 2009, there seems to be wide agreement that a new satellite could drastically change the CO2 monitoring game. Hence not only would it be possible to track and analyze deforestation, but also measure its true CO2 impacts, in addition to the emissions from “large local sources, such as cities and power plants”.

On a similar optimistic note, Wired Science reports that a team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists have developed a web service that combines seismic data about an earthquake, with Tweets from the popular microblogging service’s users.


Quaketweets (from Wired Science)

This sort of collaborations between science, and the massive data and technology capacities of major ICT actors, can drastically improve the sort of monitoring systems needed to underpin international environmental agreements.

The question is of course: who will be the first to design similar systems to track surprising ecosystem change in for example marine ecosystems, agricultural landscapes, or urban ecological contexts?