ICTs, Climate Change and Development: Themes and Strategic Actions

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 15th Jan 2015 | last updated 14th Oct 2019

Introduction and overview

This book – along with its companion volume "ICTs, Climate Change and Development: Case Evidence" – analyses evidence and makes recommendations for policy and practice at the intersection of three domains: information and communication technologies (ICTs), climate change, and socio-economic development sectors. 

The three dual intersections of these domains have seen increasing research and action, particularly since the turn of the 21st Century:

  1. ICTs and development: successive waves of ICTs – telecentres, mobile phones, broadband, smartphones – have been diffusing into developing countries, increasingly reaching poor communities, and increasingly offering the potential to significantly change development processes and livelihoods.
  2. Climate change and development – from no explicit mention in the Millennium Development Goals, climate change has risen rapidly up the agenda of developing country governments and development agencies; in particular recognising the impact on livelihoods of the poor that climate change can already been seen to be having.
  3. ICTs and climate change – there has been growing recognition that the carbon footprint of the ICT sector is growing, but also that ICTs must play an important role in initiatives to address climate change.

Yet, prior to the IDRC-funded "Climate Change, Innovation and ICTs" project from which this book is developed, there had been very little attention paid to the "triple intersection". That is, to the specific role which ICTs can play in addressing climate change in developing countries. This role is specific, and cannot simply be rolled-up into the general "e-Climate Change" field for a number of reasons. These include:

  • The greater resource-poverty of developing countries, which means they require context-specific solutions, often based on more "frugal" ICT innovations.
  • The related dominance of basic mobile phones among all types of ICT, compared with dominance of the Internet-connected PC and 3G+ phones in developed countries. 
  • The different types of climate and climate change being experienced in developing countries.
  • The "mirrored agendas" of global North and South: while climate change mitigation is the main priority in developed countries, in developing countries it is climate change adaptation.

IDRC therefore initiated this project with three main purposes in mind:

  • To analyse evidence and ideas to date on ICTs, climate change and development (ICCD), in order to develop state-of-play reviews and conceptual models. The chapters in Part 1 of this book were developed to address this aim.
  • To develop a new primary evidence base about the use of ICTs to address climate change in developing countries, and draw lessons from such initiatives. The case studies presented in the companion volume - "ICTs, Climate Change and Development: Case Evidence" – were commissioned to address this aim.
  • To produce recommendations for strategic actors and strategic actions necessary to most-effectively utilise ICTs in relation to climate change and development. The chapters in Part 2 of this book were developed to address this aim.

Suggested citation

Heeks, R and Ospina, A, V., 2012 (eds). ICTs, Climate Change and Development: Themes and Strategic Actions. Centre for Development Informatics, Institute for Development Policy and Management, SED.