March 2008

Round Table Discussion on ‘ICT and Climate Change

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Moderator:    

  • Dr Basheerahamed Shadrach, Senior Programme Officer – Asia, Telecentre.org, IDRC

Speakers:

  • Dr Leena Srivastava, Executive Director, TERI 
  • Dr Prodipto Ghosh, Senior Distinguished Fellow, TERI and former Secretary, MoEF
  • Dr Veena Joshi, Team leader, Rural Energy & Housing, SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) 
  • Dr L S Rathore, Head AgroMet, Additional Director General, IMD ( Indian Meteorological Department) 
  • Dr L H Prakash, NCMRWF (National Council for Medium Range Weather Forecasting) 
  • Dr R K Mall, Associate Professor, NIDM (National Institute for Disaster Management)  
  • Mr Raghu Saxena, Country Director, Earth Watch Institute

TERI organised a round table discussion on ICT and Climate Change on 6th February 2008 in New Delhi to highlight the role of ICTs in adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The discussion focused on various activities in this domain, and examined their effective outreach. It also focused on a mechanism through which rural communities could be informed about the impending climatic variations and their effects. It was observed that though ICTs contribute to climate change, the purpose of the forum was to forge a better understanding of these tools in adapting to and mitigating climate change.

Summary of the discussions
Dr Leena Srivastava's presentation outlined the existing patterns of climatic change, and how they have been affecting both natural and human systems, making them vulnerable to climate change. She spoke about how climate change affects agriculture, water resources, and the health of poor and vulnerable communities. Her presentation highlighted how ICT has helped improve productivity of different sectors, especially in rural areas. The role of ICT in capacity-building through impact and vulnerability assessment, coping measures, and outreach was also dealt with. She emphasised on a proactive approach for the sector. Her presentation concluded on the note that there should be a platform for to-and-fro information flow, which assesses impacts and vulnerability and disseminates coping and adapting measures to the rural communities as well. She pointed out that as an adaptive measure, farmers need to be informed about the likely impact and trends of climate change. This would help them in adapting to new cropping patterns. She expressed deep concern for the rural and poor communities primarily because they are most dependent on climate, and are also the least informed about climate variability. There needs to be a concentrated effort from all stakeholders in this direction with ICT as the backbone. She emphasised that it is time for all stakeholders to get together and bring about a change in the manner we live our lives and in the manner we impact the climate system.

The round table discussion stressed on the need to include local voices in the system, there should be a medium or platform for information flow in both directions.  This medium/platform has to be simple, easy to understand, localised, and should enable quick response. The learning of one community can be shared with another and so on. Timely solutions would help in improving rural livelihoods. The present forecast gives data for the next five days. Smart and intelligent applications/models need to be developed which would provide data for a longer period. The forecast should be in the local language. Technical terms also need to be more colloquial for better understanding. Forestry, education, e-Governance, agriculture, climate change impact assessment studies, and so on were identified as the potential areas of intervention since ICT has the advantage of cutting across most of the sectors. ICTs can go a long way in not only bridging the digital divide but also the lifestyle divide in populations. ICTs have a vital role in developing services and thus mitigating GHGs (greenhouse gases). ICT-enabled instruments also reduce the time and space gaps and be energy efficient. ICTs can play a major role in enabling the panchayats in real-time dissemination of information to local communities through automated weather stations. Use of ICTs can actually reduce GHG emissions by providing various services at the virtual space, like ticket booking, e-Banking and distance learning.

The discussion stressed on the need for a more concerted action in sensitising the government and policy-makers for appropriate policy decisions to enable the use of ICTs in adapting to climate change. There needs to be a convergence of ways and efforts within the government on policy decisions and play outlays for using the various mediums ICTs offer for assessment and coping measures to climate change. It was felt that that the potential use of community radio was still untapped with regard to quick information dissemination and disaster alertness due strict government policies. The discussants stressed on the need for a model for advocacy and adaptation. The government has a great role to play in setting the adaptation measures for climate change.  As the service providers increase their geographic reach to the rural domain, the government must also act as a catalyst by creating conducive framework and policies.

The group felt a need for investments in localising information and engaging communities in practices for assessment of vulnerability and adaptation techniques. New funding mechanisms need to be worked out through PPP (Public

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