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Impact of ICT on Climate Change and Agriculture in India

ICT is both energy saver and energy guzzler rolled into one. On the saving side, we have intelligent devices and applications that have brought about revolutionary energy saving in almost all sectors and our lifestyles. According to consulting firm McKinsey, boosting the use of intelligent devices and applications could reduce global CO2 emissions by as much as 15% by 2020. 

On the guzzling end, ICT usage is responsible for about 7.8% of the EU's electricity consumption, and will hit 10.5% by 2020, if we believe the estimates. Though there is no data on usage in the developing world, we know for sure there is a definite increase in usage in emerging economies like India and China. McKinsey also fears this increase would make ICT among the biggest greenhouse gas emitters by 2020.

The contributions of ICT to mitigating climate change can be divided into three broad, logical categories: 

1. Infrastructure innovation, 
2. Behavioural change and greening of lifestyles
3. Energy efficiency of ICT products and solutions

Infrastructure innovation is mainly about increasing the energy efficiency of buildings/infrastructure through intelligent systems and design; reducing the energy use of the manufacturing sector through intelligent systems, design and change of business models; enabling smarter management of energy supply and demand and sustainably producing energy.

Behavioural change and green enablement is focused on the need for measurement and monitoring of carbon reduction and tools that cause positive behavioural change. This includes the use of innovative technologies and opportunities that reduce travel and transportation, such as those for virtual meetings, telecommuting and online services like eHealth, eTaxation and eBanking, and software tools for carbon impact measurement.

The rapid increase in the adoption of ICT worldwide has brought attention upon the energy efficiency of ICT products and solutions. The industry has to look within and address its own carbon footprint.

ICT & Climate Change - A one day consultation

Prof. (Dr.) Rajesekharan Pillai - inaugural address
 
In a consultation jointly organised by the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS); the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) and the International Non-Governmental Co-operation Organization for Renewable Energy (INGCORE), at Technopark, Trivandrum, on 19 November 2011, the delegates called for increased use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the formulation of a strategy for monitoring, mitigation and adaptation with respect to climate change. The consultation was the first in Kerala for initiating a dialogue on the role of ICT for climate change. It brought together policy makers, scientists, NGOs, academics and IT specialists.
 
Inaugurating the event, Prof. (Dr) V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Executive Vice-President, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), called for considering climate change as an input in macro-planning and policy formulation in the State. One of the important considerations in achieving the aggressive targets at the national and international levels for containing the effects of climate change is ICT, he added.
 
Speaking at the consultation, Annie George, CEO, Bedroc, an NGO working on disaster risk reduction among coastal agricultural communities in Nagapattinam said, coastal agrarian communities in Nagapattinam have already perceived the changes in patterns of precipitation, wind, increasing depth of water tables, increasing salinity, decreasing soil productivity and increased sighting of new pest infestations. 
 
Even fishing communities are becoming aware of changes in patterns of cyclones, monsoons, reduction of mangroves, corals and reefs, tidal changes, pollution etc. So in effect, whatever may be the cause, there are changes that are noticeable to traditional communities, changes that may or may not be due to climate change, she added.
 
She also suggests adaptation on the lines of crop management based on early warning systems, changes in fishing practices, land zonation, protective regulations and policies and E governance to bring communities closer to leaders in shorter time, for transparency and better planning and policy making.
 
Alexander Varghese of UNIDO, Kenya, spoke of how UNIDO is currently embarking on major initiatives in the area of renewable energy for productive activities as part of the second phase of the Integrated Programme for Kenya. He said the three areas of focus was renewable energy, conversion of waste into energy and reducing dependency on kerosene. He presented informative slides and videos of UNIDO’s efforts in the rural areas of Kenya at bringing renewable energy and reducing their dependence on kerosene.
 
KV Thomas of CESS spoke of the reliability of data and climate models. He said, more than global models, regional models have to be developed with reliable data. He presented data on sea level rise in Mumbai, Kochi, Vizag and Diamond harbor but added that the data was not reliable. He said, the CRZ was effective in mitigating climate change and that ICT’s role in developing technologies for monitoring environmental degradation like pollution and logging will go a long way in mitigating climate change.
 
 Satish Babu, Director, ICFOSS
 
Satish Babu, Director, ICFOSS, called for decentralised monitoring systems through ICT as support for communities. He said there is a need for guidelines on green computing like stand by power, phasing out of CRT monitors etc. Free sharing of information on these matters, like open source, will be very helpful. He also spoke of the third working place, social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace, which includes commercial or non-commercial functions with an emphasis on providing a free space for social interaction.
 
ICT and Agriculture in India
 
The available Indian ICT public service delivery models in Agriculture sector are few and mostly in private sector such as Knowledge centres of MSSRF, e-choupal of ITC, Ikisan of Nagarjuna Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd, and Parrys' India agriline
 
Besides these, a number of Agribusiness corporates like TAFE, Mahindra and Mahindra, and several others are adopting ICT in their businesses. The cooperative sector already includes Dairy Information Services Kiosk (DISK) of NDDB and wired village WARANA. Amongst civil society, GRASSO of West Bengal is pioneering the ICT access in farm sector. It is apparent that increased realisation of rural markets potential has become a driving force for the concerned corporate.
 
The major ICT based service delivery initiative in government is limited to ASHA initiative of Assam SFAC (Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium) with its networking with large ICT infrastructure (CICs) spread all over the State. Kerala has come up with two different initiatives – Kissan Kerala and  e-Krishi, which is yet to be operationalised. The Government of Andhra Pradesh is providing agribusiness services under Parishkaram. The IIIT Hyderabad is experimenting with e-Sagu.
 
The State of Uttaranchal is setting up Kisan Soochna Kendras in private partnership while the Haryana recently inaugurated its first Agribusiness Information Centre. The States of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are pursuing comprehensive Agrisnet. Besides, Agricultural Universities in several States have launched telephonic help lines. Taking land records management into consideration, the Bhoomi Project in Karnataka has been acknowledged as one of the highly successful public sector initiatives in the country having direct impact in improving health of Agriculture sector and is being replicated in several other states. 
 
Even the commodity exchanges are not left behind as they are using ICT extensively in their agribusiness.
 
At national level the Government of India is undertaking a number of initiatives. Some of the popular public service models include Kisan Call Centres and web portal initiative, which provides market price information. Most of the Central organisations are accessible through their websites. The Government of India initiative of AGRISNET to institutionalise IT empowerment and networking of research and development institutions and services under the Ministry of Agriculture is a harbinger of ICT in the Agriculture sector. 
 
It is expected that National e-Governance Plan (NeGP), the AGRISNET, proposed Common Service Centres and Village Knowledge Centres by the Government would further take India forward to harness emerging potential of ICT comprehensively for the benefit of farmers and all partners of agribusiness offering both synergy and value addition.
 
While representatives of nations attending the COP 17 at Durban are deciding on issues related to climate change, traditional communities are facing the brunt of changes in weather patterns that have upset their livelihoods and connections with nature. The rising GDP in India is also spurring unprecedented growth in urban areas and the need for inclusive growth has never been so urgent. Let us hope more intelligent solutions and technologies that pave the way for recording and improving the reliability of data sets and better monitoring of environmental degradation will emerge in the days ahead.
 
Sources: ICT in Indian Agriculture: A powerful intervention by M. Ariz Ahammed; The Contribution of ICT to Climate Change Mitigation (Working Paper) World Economic Forum.