Use of ICT can contribute significantly to energy efficiency, sustainable environmental growth and carbon free economy. ICT can reduce the need for travel and transportation of goods by bridging distance. It can increase efficiency and innovation by allowing people to work in more flexible ways, and can ensure a shift from products to services, and allow for dematerialization of the economy. All of which should help to lower carbon emissions.
ICT products, services and applications have massive potential to reduce climate change in other industrial and domestic sectors, particularly transport, through a reduction in their carbon emissions, and information dissemination on climate change and its effect on the physical nature of our planet.
The role of ICT in mitigating the effect of climate change on the world economy could be viewed in two different perspectives. As the spread and advancement of the ICT vary across the globe i.e. the Developed world and the under- developed world. While the developed world has been in a digital era for more than a decade now, the under-developed world sees no much of the digital revolution.
As a result of the digital divide that exists between the developed and the under-developed world. The role the ICT will play in reducing the effect of climate change between the two will differ at the moment.
The Developed nations could use the ICT products and application like video conferencing, Audio conferencing, Data call, Flexi-work, online shopping, online billing, GIS etc. to significantly reduces world total dependence on carbon related fuel and possibility of climate changes. While the under-developed nations could only use the ICT as source of information on what to do at local level, to lower the effects of climate change. In the later, ICT is used as information dissemination tools to the rural populace. Therefore in both cases the ICT Players are considered to be potential heroes when it comes to the mitigation of the effect of climate change to the global economy. But apart from being heroes, the ICT players can also be victims or villains of climate change as well.
ICT are as likely to be victims of climate change as other network infrastructures and equipment, are already suffering the effects of global warming due to the increasing frequency of severe weather effects especially raise in atmospheric temperature. This is a resultant of excessive CO2 emission into the atmosphere.
As villains of climate change, ICT companies use energy to power the ICT network, to heat and cool buildings, to protect equipment and for transport. But ICT is less energy-intensive and carbon-heavy than many other industries. The deployment of next-generation networks will further reduce ICT energy usage. A large network in the near future can be powered with simple Solar cell or wind power generation. Therefore Renewable energy would in the near future be a reliable and cheaper source of power to most of the ICT infrastructures.
Video conferencing: Video conferencing involve the use of new generation multi media technology by two or more parties at different location across the globe to communicate, interact and meet visibly with one another live. Through video conferencing, Managing Director of MNB Limited in Finland could enter into conference with the technical team of Service Company in Nigeria, and a Financial Adviser of same company in USA, instead of both parties travel to one destination. Therefore significant percentage of business travel by air, by road and by rail to the business destination is replaced through video conferencing. Hence several quantity of energy is saved, and this would save millions tonnes of CO2 from being emitted to atmosphere.
Flexi-work: in some parts of Europe and the developing world, many people work at home through internet, people do not need to fuel their cars and drive to the office, they don’t need to join train or plane for business travel. Through the use of computer, internet connection, printer and scanner. An architect can design a building and forward it to client, payment be made online, different kind of business can be done indoor with the help of ICT and small solar panel. Here you do not need much energy as the ICT equipment does not consume much energy. This could significantly save several millions tonnes of CO2 from being emitted in to the atmosphere. And will reduce our total dependence on hydrocarbon related fuels.
Online billing: In the developed world hundreds million customers are receiving online phone bills, satellite bills, Bank account statement, energy bills etc. This has significantly reduces the energy being utilized to print hard copies of such statement, and the fuel used to distribute the bills to the various customers location, this save millions tonnes of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere and hence reduces the threat from climate change as well.
Online Shopping: A customer could order an item online and the item is delivered to him from far distance. A business man in Africa could browse an item in a company in Europe through internet, put an order and the item being shipped to his destination. This reduces the frequency of business travel either by road, air or rail, hence lower total dependence on fuel and also lower carbon emission into the atmosphere. Thus save the world from the effect of climate change.
Internet: In most part of the world internet is now being used as the source of information and research. Many research institute, tertiary institution and organization now use internet to disseminate information on their product and services to different location of the world. Admission application forms, Registration and recruitment are now being made online. This has significantly lowered the energy being used to print forms, distribute the forms and other logistics for the forms to reach people at different location. Millions of messages are now being sent through e-mail instead of mailing the hard copies through post office. Hence reduces the carbon emission into the atmosphere.
When it comes to the third world nations, the role the ICT plays in mitigating the effect of climate change would be different.
It is estimated that about 60% of the third world population still lives in the villages with agriculture being their main occupation. The rural communities mostly depend on the traditional tools and methods for most of their regular activities. Though, mobile phones and cable TV has spread to some extent, the level of information dissemination and awareness generation in rural areas, is still an area of concern. Information Communication Technologies (ICT) can be used as an effective tool for information dissemination, building capacities and improving the livelihood of rural communities. ICT have the capability to reduce time and space boundaries. The role of ICT is pivotal in disseminating scientific knowledge/technologies to the end users especially to people on the other side of the digital divide in order to provide maximum benefit to the rural communities.
ICT has played a major role in bridging the digital divide. Numerous efforts by government and organizations are using ICT as a tool for information dissemination and development practices. Value based services through ICT enabled centers are being provided to the rural population. Interventions have already been made in the matters of health, water and agriculture by using ICT as a tool. The role of ICT in creating a platform for information dissemination and channeling services has been appreciated. Knowledge about climatic conditions is a vital factor that enables communities for advance decision-making in order to prevent losses from changes in the climatic variables. New and emerging model needs to be adopted and customized with the changing needs and time.
In the context of the changing climatic patterns, the adaptive capacities of the rural communities (who are mostly dependant on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, natural resources, water and health for livelihood and sustenance) are often restricted because of the lack of either ability and/ or opportunity to adapt. Change in climate had often leads to changing patterns in ground water, food supply (decrease in crop yield), coastal erosion, and decrease in fresh water availability.
Although there are several mechanisms of access to information on weather, crop management, healthcare and water management, however they are not integrated and often function in isolation. By involving a range of stakeholders including the government and private sector at regional level, there is a need to mainstream climate change adaptation into the development process globally.
There is need to address changes in climate with relation to the rural scenario across the globe, by using ICT as an effective tool. This could be achieved by given special consideration from the world super powers, the UN, the EU, international organizations and other developmental agencies. A taskforce is needed that should address the issue of climate change as a priority area to look into as its danger and consequences are as fatal as that of HIV and other Natural disasters such as erosion, flood, draught etc. The taskforce would be given the power to establish and execute the following
These will surely be of great value to the local communities, Agricultural development, Environmental sustainability as well as the world economic development.
It is no more a myth that the silver-bullet to fight and overcome the danger and threats from climate change on the world economy and the well being of humanity on earth is the ICT. By intensifying the effort on digital divide the world total dependence on hydrocarbon fuel will be immensely reduced, this will lower the CO2 emission and will prompt the world to easily adopt renewable energy as source of power. And consequently improve the world economy.