Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are becoming increasingly popular tools in African cities to lessen, and where possible, prevent the severe effects of climate change-induced emergencies. Many African countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and are often least capable and prepared to cope with natural disasters. Mozambique for example, is one of the countries most vulnerable the impacts of climate variability. Over the past 25 years, Mozambique has experienced successive droughts and floods as well as significant cyclones.
The role of ICTs in Africa: examples from Mozambique and Madagascar
In Mozambique, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is one example of an ICT tool that is being used to help local governments identify flood zones on maps, measure communities’ vulnerability to flooding, and plan for new flood-prevention infrastructure like drainage systems and levees. Through mobile phones, citizens are being alerted via SMS texts to coming floods or cyclones and Early Warning Systems are simulating weather patterns and predicting disasters in advance.
The Government of Madagascar is currently testing the use of an SMS warning system for those with mobile phones (estimated at more than 300 phones per 1000 inhabitants in the country), whereby National Bureau for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) sends out messages to local leaders and telecom providers to warn of impending cyclones. This SMS system is being used both to send alerts and also to collect information about the impacts. The World Bank is working with the Government of Madagascar to scale-up the use of ICTs. Projects include Disaster Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change and Mainstreaming Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management into Economic Development. Both projects promote the use of innovative ICTs such as geo-spatial mapping and open-source technology, as well as more mainstream technology like the BNGRC SMS system.
According to Gaurav Relhan, an ICT specialist in the World Bank’s Africa Region, and author of a new report on ICTs, cities, and natural disasters in Africa: Municipal ICT Capacity and its Impact on the Climate-Change Affected Urban Poor: The Case of Mozambique, “ICTs can play a pivotal role in ultimately saving lives and lowering recovery costs.”
Projects in Mozambique and Madagascar join similar projects like ‘Taarifa’, a smart phone-based tool being applied in Uganda and Zimbabwe that allows citizens to alert governments of local sanitation and drainage concerns.
ICTs and African country-level policies on climate change
In the video below Ben Akoh from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) talks about the first study results on ICTs and climate change adaptation in Africa and some interesting findings of how little ICTs are reflected in the National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPAs) in some African countries.
ICTs & Knowledge-sharing platforms for sustainability in Africa
Another relevant ICT tool that is being used in Africa is knowledge-sharing platforms. AfricaAdapt is an innovative example of a knowledge-sharing platform focused on climate change adaptation that is bilingual (French/English) and focused exclusively on Africa. The network’s aim is to facilitate the flow of climate change adaptation knowledge for sustainable livelihoods between researchers, policy makers, civil society organisations and communities who are vulnerable to climate variability and change across the continent. Another example is CGIAR’s ICT-KM Program that promotes and supports the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and knowledge management (KM) to improve the effectiveness of the CGIAR System’s work on reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources.
Green Africa Directory encourage you to share your examples of ICT use in Africa for climate change mitigation and adaptation in the comments below.