Author and Institution:
Laxmi Prasad Pant, University of Waterloo
Richard Heeks, University of Manchester

Climate change and related stressors are posing an increasing challenge to livelihoods in low-income communities. Those communities need to develop the capacity to adapt to climate change: coping with short-term shocks and long-term trends. ICTs will form an essential part of that development.

Mobile technologies have been the dominant force in ICTs, and we review here a number of initiatives that have successfully combined local and external information and knowledge. We find these initiatives have made a valuable contribution to deliberate, pre-planned strategies for adaptation, focussing on the informational role of ICTs and combining local and external capacities (though limited in their development of local capacity). However, we argue that climate change adaptation also demands emergent actions that cannot be foreseen in advance, and which require the development of communities more as self-organising systems. This will require ICTs to be transformational as much as informational, developing collective as much as individual capacities.

As yet, though, signs of self-organisation through mobile-based applications appear limited. While no panacea, we suggest that a reworking of telecentre models – creating new ‘mobile-telecentre’ architectures that support the development of local infomediaries – may be one way to help develop local capacities that are more congruous with the demands of an emergent strategy perspective on climate change adaptation. More generally, we see ICTs’ contribution as most likely coming not through climate-specific applications, but through information systems that address the broad range of vulnerabilities in a holistic and systemic manner.

Thematic Paper