Environmental sustainability. Energy independence. Information and communication technology. Development. These issues are inextricably linked. By ignoring the centralized models of the past and moving directly to the decentralized, networked models now emerging, developing nations can leapfrog -- build infrastructures which are more powerful, more efficient, and more sustainable than many of their more "advanced" neighbors. This isn't just the argument we make here at WorldChanging, it's the conclusion of a UN task force working under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme.
A United Nations Environment Programme Task Force on Information & Communication Technology and Renewable Energy for Sustainable Rural Development conducted its third meeting at the Neko Tech Center in Ada, Ghana.
Building upon its work in Paris, Delhi, and on-going field work from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Task Force found that:
* Renewable energy enables rapid deployment of reliable affordable electricity in rural areas, a prerequisite for accelerated national development;
* Information and communications technologies are essential to enhancing rural health, education, government, entertainment and enterprise, and to participating actively in the global economy; and
* Deployed in harmony, renewable energy and information/communication technology mutually reinforce the cost effective deployment of basic infrastructure and enable new livelihoods, social empowerment, and environmental security (emphasis added).
UNEP is an interesting group. Although it clearly has its share of bureaucratic afflictions, it appears to be a startlingly useful information resource for those of us trying to integrate environmental concerns with the drive to improve conditions in the developing world. The Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics has numerous guides for businesses in the developing world (and in the developed world, too) looking to become more environmentally sustainable. The Environment and Sustainable Technologies database resource -- listing 86 different databases covering everything from an EU knowledge base on renewable energy to low-cost appropriate technologies (and that's just in the "A" section) -- looks to be weeks worth of WorldChanging postings alone!