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Tuesday, 13 April 2010 10:23

How ICT Can Grow Green Economies in Africa

By Cosmas Butunyi

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 12, (East African) - Faster adoption of information and communication technology could help African countries accelerate economic development while conserving the environment.


"Technology is part of the answer to everything," said Mike Bushell, the principal scientific adviser at the Syngenta International Research Centre during the recent State of the Planet forum at United Nations Environment Programme headquarters at Gigiri in Nairobi.


This includes revolutionising agricultural production to not only improve yields but also provide access to better markets by better price information; as well as improving healthcare services.


ICT joins renewable energy and sustainable agricultural practices as accepted avenues through which countries can transform themselves into "green economies," or economies with low carbon emissions and efficient resource use strategies that would translate into cleaner air and better health.


Besides increased government investment, experts propose public-private partnerships to help drive green growth.


UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that partnerships between different bodies are necessary for a faster evolution into a green economy. However, the secret towards greater impact is in making the technologies affordable and available to the masses.


Focus on the village

According to the Africa communications co-ordinator at the UN Millenium Campaign Sylvia Mwichuli, the focus should be at the village level if the development is to have an impact, otherwise there will be a continued disparity in the populations.


Experts cite the successful deployment of mobile phone technology in the region as an indication of the magnitude of impact that ICT could have on development if rolled out to the entire population in a country.


Equity Bank chief executive officer James Mwangi said that environmental sustainability is a crucial pillar and if not conserved, destroys the future.


"We need to combine environmental sustainability with poverty reduction; unless we do this then we should forget about the environment," added Mr Mwangi.


The Gigiri forum was told that the technologies that would herald green development need not be complicated or novel.


Mr Bushell said that what is required is a set of simple technologies that can change lives across the country, for instance, building simple greenhouses from locally available materials and provide extension services for the growing of horticultural crops.



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