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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Green Revolution: ICT as solution catalyst

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) must be seen as part of the solution for sustainable environment in Africa and Nigeria particularly, writes REMMY NWEKE.

As the sixth symposium on Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), the Environment and Climate Change gets underway in the neighbouring country of Ghana, experts in the ICT sector agreed that technology has an immense role to play as technologies converge to make the world a better place.

It could be recalled that this forthcoming symposium on climate change follows the successful events held between 2008 and 2010 in Kyoto, London, Quito, Seoul and Cairo, even as it will be preceded by a training seminar on conformity and interoperability for Africa scheduled for 4 through 6 July 2011, in the city of Accra, the capital Ghana.

This event planned for July 7 and 8, this year, is being jointly organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Ministry of Communications, Ghana and its counterpart in the Environment, Science & Technology, Ghana.

Commenting on this, Mr. Malcolm Johnson, Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU, said that the main purpose of the event would be to move forward the agenda on using ICTs to monitor climate change, mitigate and adapt to its effects and, in this light, identify future requirements for ITU’s related work – including standardization of ICT equipment and networks as well as development activities.

These, he said are in tandem with the Resolution 73 of the 2008 World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-08), Resolution 66 of the 2010 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10) and Resolution 182 of the 2010 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-10)) respectively.

According to him, the symposium in Ghana will focus on the issue of ICTs, the environment and climate change in Africa and the needs of developing countries, disclosing that some of the topics will include mitigation and adaptation to climate change, e-waste, disaster planning, cost-effective ICT technologies, methodologies for the environmental impact assessment of ICTs, challenges and opportunities in the transition to a green and resource efficient economy.

Additionally, it would identify possible goals, commitments and modalities of the ICT sector engagements to be developed in the process leading to the forthcoming 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17-CMP7), to be held in Durban, South Africa in November 2011.

The event, he noted will also develop a set of recommendations for action in relation to ICTs, the environment and climate change towards a green economy, as a contribution to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD 2012 or Rio+20). Thus it promises an assembly of leading specialists in the field, from top policy-makers to engineers, designers, planners, government officials, regulators, standards experts and others.

Some of the agenda at the event to be co-chaired by the duo of Minister of Communications, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu and his colleague in the Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology, Ghana and Co-Chairman of the Symposium, Ms. Sherry Ayittey, is expected to have a high-level segment tagged: From Cancun via Accra to Durban – A Roadmap on ICTs, Climate Change and the Environment. Mr. Johnson noted that the world community adopted at COP-16 the Cancun Agreements, a package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world. This High-Level Segment will aim to set transparent policy objectives and targets to measure and improve government green ICT strategies, including ICT-enabled applications across the economy.“This high-level segment will provide panelists with an opportunity to exchange views on how ICTs can help in the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and in preparation for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD),” he said.

Additionally there are other sessions for ‘Adaptation and Climate Change Impact’ where the changing global climatic conditions, due to both physical and anthropogenic factors, would take prominence.

He pointed out that have an impact on ecosystems in general and on the human habitat in particular, for instance influences access to natural resources such as drinking water and food, affecting health and migration processes, and causing severe atmospheric and oceanic disturbances.

“Citizens around the world are becoming more aware of the potential impact of climate change on their own lives. But effects and resilience skills vary from country to country,” he said.

Particularly, he said, the most vulnerable countries in the developing world often do not have the technological, human, financial and governance resources needed to adapt to climate change. This session, he said, will look at how ICTs could help in adapting to the new environmental challenges, especially in developing countries.

“It will also look at national climate change adaptation, early warning systems, prevention, disaster risk reduction issues, and technological issues such as the use of remote sensing,” he said.

Whereas the second session, he said, would centre on ‘ICTs As a Green Technology for Sustainable Development,’ noting that in today’s world, economy and environment are to be considered as a single imperative in order to achieve a durable economic growth.

More than any other industrial sector, the ICT industry intersects both economy and environment interests. Hence in fighting this ’war’ this era against climate change, ICT sector brings a valuable contribution to the transition towards a low-carbon economy, enabling energy saving. Johnson went on to explain that the event would examine how ICT industry could reduce its own carbon footprint and explore the ICT potential role as enabler for the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and the savings created through ICT applications in other industry sectors among others.

This was not a far reason for the theme of the MTN’s 21 Day Yello Care across all its 21 operations spanning over Africa and Middle East.

As part of the strategies to mitigate climate change, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, last week in Lagos, ended this year’s 21 Days of Y’ello Care with plans to launch environmentally sustainable initiatives as a business, even as the employees invested about N5.5 million to plant trees across eight states in the country.

The chief executive officer, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Brett Goschen said that MTN would in no distance future launch some green initiatives as a business, in-line with the vision of the mobile operations group as a long term project.

“Over and above 21 days of Y’ello Care, we will shortly be launching some long-term environmentally sustainable initiatives as a business and in alignment with the group,” he said.

Goschen who was represented at the event by the Chief Information Officer (CIO), MTN Nigeria, Mr. Abdul Ismail, which this year has as its theme: ‘Making a Positive Difference to the Environment’ commended employees of MTN Nigeria for making effort to join the MTN Group in commemorating this year’s 21 Days Y’ello Care, which he described as a challenge to roll-up their sleeves and go about the activities in the spirit which MTN is known for.

This, he said re-echoes with the global thinking of increased awareness on environmental protection and Going Green in order to save the planet and sustain its resources.

He lamented that what hitherto seen as parts of human activities now constitute the greatest danger to the environment.

“The good news, however, is that advocacy for Going Green is stronger today than ever before,” he said, stressing that this has encouraged attitudinal change in people with regard to how they treat the environment.

He expressed delight that the MTN employees have voluntarily chosen to be change agents and friends of the environment.

“We have again demonstrated a strong will to continue to positively impact on the communities where we operate,” he asserted.

The General Manager, Organisation and Talent Management, Human Resource, Mrs. Oluwafunke Amobi, disclosed that the 21 Days Yello Care for 2011 involved the planting of 3700 trees in eight states at the cost of N1,500.

This, she said, was implemented through a non-governmental organisation (NGO) FADE Africa under its Adopt a Tree project and donation from staff, especially in Kano and Lagos.

In addition, they distributed flyers as part of the environmental awareness campaign and provision of MTN branded items in all the regions.

The employees equally collected and distributed non-sensitive waste papers like calendars, posters, and publications among others to the school for the blind for use in typing in Braille.

She recalled that this year, the 21 Days of Y’ello Care which commenced on June 1 through 21 and afford the employees of MTN Nigeria across the country to embark on a series of community-based activities under the company’s annual staff volunteerism programme.

2011 edition, she noted is the fifth edition of the programme initiated in 2007 by the MTN Group to encourage staff of the company all its 21 operations in Africa, Asia and Middle East to volunteer their resources, time and skills to help others and the communities they live and work in.

The fact that ICTs could address these and other problems that all countries, particularly developing countries face with respect to climate change, is an indication that ICTs could be used to mitigate the impact of other sectors on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, therefore helping countries to adapt to climate change.

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