As the intensification of climatic uncertainty and variability continues to affect vulnerable contexts worldwide, the importance of adopting innovative, yet locally-appropriate approaches to climate change challenges has become critical.

While the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16) unfolds in Mexico, and global headlines highlight the struggle of the most vulnerable to withstand, recover and adapt to the changing climatic conditions and the impact of acute events, the importance of ‘innovation’ is increasingly emerging.

But what do ‘innovative responses’ involve within developing contexts where poverty and vulnerability prevail?

Based on resourcefulness and creativity, innovation within vulnerable environments often involves adopting new practices using the tools at their disposal; tools that include, increasingly, low-cost Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, ICTs can play a key role tackling climate change not only by enabling a low-carbon future (e.g. helping to reduce emissions through green and smart applications), but also by providing the means for implementing new approaches to environment/climate monitoring, disaster preparedness and adaptation within developing contexts.

Experiences from the field are starting to evidence this potential. In terms of monitoring, for example, mobile phones can contribute to effectively communicate meaningful climate data, including alerts, to small farmers and vulnerable populations, while community radio stations are being used to share and disseminate climate change adaptation practices, giving local stakeholders the possibility to interact within a broader community, while helping to bridge the gap between new and traditional knowledge in this area.

The use of Web 2.0 and digital media is also changing the way in which we perceive and understand the challenges posed by climate change, helping to provide a voice to the most vulnerable –specially young generations- to share the impacts of climate change manifestations in their lives, as well as the coping mechanisms adopted in response to them. And interesting example in this regard is the initiative ‘Portraits of Resilience‘, which empowers youth to create awareness on the local impacts of climate change using digital media.

Understanding innovation within contexts constrained by challenges related to food security, water supply, health, habitat and migrations, socio-political or livelihood vulnerabilities, requires the adoption of a broader development perspective.

It requires to consider how available resources and low-cost tools can be used to foster creativity and discovery, empowerment and new learning processes that ultimately strengthen local resilience, or the capacity to adapt, change and transform in face of both short and long-term climate change impacts. And it increasingly involves the use of ICTs as part of local efforts to reduce the vulnerabilities that climate change exacerbates within developing contexts.

Have you heard of innovative responses, using ICTs, to the challenges posed by climate change?

Share them here!

2 thoughts on “Innovation in the face of Vulnerability: ICTs and Climate Change

  1. Innovation in the climate changes mitigation process needs solid technological solutions which meet the complex demands of sustainability.
    Hence top priority needs to be given to technology development and fast implementations, which solve the handicaps of polluting burning based energy resources.
    The top ranked arenas are clean energy and water resources.
    If the world is serious about these two, rest of the development processes shall take a leap step.
    Focus on the foundation building and save the planet.

  2. Hi,

    This is an interesting subject that Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development and Nature Palace are trying to take up here in Uganda. We are actually looking for partnerships in this regard (see below)

    Communicating the Impact of Climate Change using Web 2.0 Tools: Enabling Communities to tell a story from below


    In Africa, the most immediate impact of climate change at the grass root level is in terms of deficiencies in food production i.e. escalating levels of food insecurity characterized by extreme hunger and malnutrition, as well as water supply In this regard, the impacts of climate change include a reduction in soil productivity; unpredictable and irregular seasons characterized by drought and flood extremes that result into crop failure; escalating pest attacks; and decreased livestock productivity.

    Problem Statement and Justification

    In the Lake Victoria region of East Africa, climate change effects and potential adaptation solutions are not well documented despite the fact that this challenge has aggravated poverty levels and vulnerability due to being one of the regions in Africa with the fastest population growth.

    In addition, because of poverty, low investment levels by Governments, limited resources and poor infrastructure, local authorities in the Lake Victoria region are constrained to invest in and develop technologies to enable adaptation to climate change.

    Prioritizing and supporting knowledge sharing and acquisition of adaptive skills promise a sustainable answer to disease outbreaks related to poor water quality, concerns of food insecurity, soil exhaustion, and increased incidence of disease and pest attack for the poor subsistence farmers. In this era, there are vast untapped opportunities to use Web 2.0 tools that can enable affected communities to be active using, sharing and contributing to knowledge content and adaptive skills (in form of audio, video and text) to counter the effects of climate change in the LVB. Currently Web 2.0 tools in use by NGOs and CBOs include short text messaging using mobile phones, emailing, image sharing, use of listserves and e-newsletters and social networking (FaceBook).

    Though climate change heavily impacts on the poor, their efforts and successes to adapt remain largely undocumented and hence unknown. Hence this project seeks to fill this gap through a sustained communication of climate change stories (best practices, challenges, adaptive strategies and skills among others) that can be shared within the communities and with other actors in the LV region, media, development actors, researchers and others, in real time.

    More recently, the drop in the water levels of Lake Victoria has been a subject of discussion at national and East African levels. But the impact of this situation on communities in key sectors (fisheries, water supply, transport and health has not raised equal interest (impact) as the causes of this.

    Moreover this shock should have been an eye-opener for communities, local, national and regional authorities to devise means of mitigating such future risks. One such sustainable way is to scale up the role of communities as both climate change information producers and users through the opportunities provided by Web
    2.0 tools. Without more information sharing geared towards coping to the unpredictable impacts of climate change, Uganda has the other option of spending more public resources and / or depending on donors (including taking up more loans)

    The Project area

    Lake Victoria Environment Management Programme (LVEMP) studies show that on the average, there is significant decline in catchment inflows into Lake Victoria in the last five years from 2000 to the tune of 22% (EAC/LVBC, 2006). Climate change is partially responsible for occurrence of droughts and floods that have impacts in community livelihood. The situation is more felt in the island communities
    One such are is Kalangala – an entirely island district situated in Lake Victoria / South Western Uganda. The district is made up of 84 islands widely scattered in Lake Victoria out of which only 64 are inhabited. Locally known as Ssese Islands, Kalangala covers an area of 9,066.8 square kilometers of which only 432.1 square kilometers is land and the rest is water. Hence the ‘sensitivity’ of this remote area to climate change can be a good starting point for devising community led information and management practices that can help offset potential impacts in key economic sectors (water transport, fisheries, agriculture, and health).
    For example, during the shock (sudden drop in the Lake Victoria water levels), Kalangala like many islands and landing sites in and around Lake Victoria, witnessed effects that included inaccessibility water collection points as water had receded, exposure of rocks in the lake causing boat accidents at night; resurgence of the water hyacinth and other water weeds among others (UCSD, 2009). Though possible coping strategies may have been available.

    Target audience

    The project seeks to work with NGOs and CBOs as facilitators for communities (farmers and Beach Management Units) to appreciate and make use of web.2.0 tools.
    This will require a gradual development and use of the applicable web 2.0 tools for using, sharing and contributing to knowledge content and adaptive skills (in form of audio, video and text) to counter the effects of climate change in the LVB in water (transport, sanitation, water supply and accessibility during weather extremes); fisheries (harvesting, marketing, management of fish breeding sites and conflict management); agriculture (coping mechanisms for better crop health, farming methods and sustainable land use); health (occurrence and frequency of disease outbreaks and how to effectively cope)
    Other audience will be the technocrats at the district and central government, NGOs, and media.

    Project partners:
    Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development:
    Nature Palace Foundation:
    Kalangala District Farmers Association

    6.0 Objectives

    Overall objective
    To build the capacity of NGOs and CBOs to enable communities to use, share and contribute to knowledge content and adaptive skills (in form of audio, video and text) as a more sustainable way to counter the effects of climate change in Kalangala Islands

    Specific objectives
    – Improve information flow within development actors in Kalangala district through the use of social media tools.
    – Strengthen linkages between agricultural research, extension, communities (farmers fishers and other stakeholders) through the use of social media tools.
    – Increase the capacity of NGOs and CBOs to collect, process, package, store, share and disseminate climate change related information.

    7.0 Activities
    The main activities of the project:
    – Carry out Needs Assessments
    *A rapid appraisal in use of the Web 2.0 tools and establishing level of skills possessed by the ‘start up’ organizations (use of internet, word processing, etc)
    *Establish the level of availability of hardware (computer – shared ones / own; reliability of power and internet connectivity)
    *Level of use, knowledge and interest as well as challenges on the proposed tools
    *Other organizations / institutions that might be interested to join us in use of
    the Web 2.0 tools given the objectives that we have set to build synergy.

    – Development of a contextualized social media strategy for Kalangala district
    – Training of community institutions (NGOs, CBOs, Beach Management Unit leaders, and Farmer groups) in the use of Web 2.0 tools to communicate climate change.
    – Regular documentation and dissemination of information on impacts, adaptation. Strategies / coping skills, best practices and needs
    – Promotion of coping mechanisms and best practices in water supply, fisheries, transport and health.
    – Regular dissemination of generated information on impacts, adaptation strategies/coping skills and best practices

    Expected Outcomes
    – Level of use and potential uses of Web 2.0 tools for development in Kalangala district established and shared with other development actors
    – NGOs, CBOs, BMUs and Farmer groups have begun to regularly use Web 2.0 in collecting, processing, storing, packaging and disseminating information related to climate change.
    – A contextualized social media strategy for Kalangala district developed and operationalised
    – Improved information sharing on climate change issues through a set of chosen social media tools.
    – Best practices, knowledge related to coping with the effects of climate change promoted among the groups and with other interested development actors

    Inputs / Budget
    (To be developed later)

    For further information, please contact

    Mr. Kimbowa Richard
    Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development
    P.O.Box 27551 Kampala Tel: +256 414 269461
    Email: |

    Mr. David Nkwanga
    Nature Palace Foundation
    P.O. Box 29455, Kampala, Uganda Tel: +256-392-966008/+256-772-625963

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