Is the web an efficient channel for environmental change?

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast 

Many environmental activists have in the past decade taken their fight on the ‘net to try as much as they can to create awareness about the damage being inflicted to the planet, and promote environmental citizenship.

The strategy has paid off in the sense that many environment-conscious citizens have massively embraced this idea, which has given them a place to call ‘home’, where they can express their concerns, generate constructive debate, and source ideas to enhance environmental politics.

However, it seems as if not everybody has benefited from this internet-based approach. “The strategy has paid off, but I’m afraid it’s still limited and individualistic,” technology analyst Ibrahima Diabaté told Biztechafrica.

“It has paid off in the developed world and in some parts of the developing world, where there is a huge concentration of ICT literacy and use.

“But there are still many people in developing nations who would like to be part of these platforms but they are unable to do so because either they have no access to ICT equipment and internet connection, or they are not computer illiterate or they have no access to electricity.

 “This doesn’t mean that such people don’t care about the environment. They are surely aware of what’s going around them, but are victims of the socio-economic circumstances.”

Noortje Marres, of the Institute of Science, Innovation and Society, at the University of Oxford and his friends of the University of Amsterdam are thought to have comprehensively generated the debate around the disadvantages and advantages of ‘environmental homes’ in What kind of space is the sustainable home published in the Global Information Society Watch.

While praising the wonderful work undertaken by activists on the ‘net, Diabaté however insisted that traditional media could still play a critical role in fighting climate change in many parts of the developing world due to recurrent problems hampering the use of ICTs.

“I will reiterate that the internet-based strategy is too narrow and present a language barrier to effectively push forward this kind of struggle,” he said, deploring the domination of English content that reigns in most of these sites.

“This struggle is too big to be fought solely on the internet, and not even the newspapers can equal the power of radio.

“And the dawn of digital broadcasting in many parts of Africa will present countless opportunities for a community media-based environment approach.”

More community broadcasting spaces dealing specifically with environment and climate change could be set up to help less educated people, including small scale farmers, understand the problems facing the planet.

And these stations, he said, must broadcast in their own vernacular languages, a total shift from the internet-infested English content.

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