Application of ICTs for climate change adaptation in the water sector: developing country experiences and emerging research priorities
A changing and variable climate will have far-reaching consequences on water resources, particularly on water that governs the lives and livelihoods of many people in the developing world. Discussions on adaptation to climate change and variability usually focus on how people use water resources. However, the chapters published here show that adaptation to contexts of water stress is often a mix of climate-consequential responses and responses to social, economic, political and cultural fluxes, in many of these regions. Moreover, responses that we often term “adaptation” occur on a wide-ranging scale, and are not necessarily confined to a specific community or context. Despite its complexity, a changing and variable climate presents us the opportunity to view water management through an entirely different lens, a lens that is less “development oriented” and more “management based”. Climate change also prompts us to take a more “holistic” view of water resources and look closely at linkages with many other aspects of our ecosystem, an approach that is often missing in conventional development paradigms on water resource planning.
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) have proven useful in tailoring responses to situations arising out of the climate-water nexus. ICTs have emerged as a strong way to understand water security challenges. They are increasingly being adopted as key decision support mechanisms for adapting to climate change effects in the developing world.
However, ICTs must not be considered simply a panacea for water security. Rather, they are tools that can be smartly used in developing appropriate responses to problems in the waterclimate change arena.
The overlap of the water, climate and ICT fields, interestingly, is communities. People take the centre stage of adaptation strategies and it is therefore important to realise the meaning of communities in today’s context given that demographic shifts occur more rapidly than ever before. In the context of climate change, water security responses today are quite demanding as multiple disciplines become important in arriving at appropriate adaptation strategies. Research on climate change, water and ICTs now involves practitioners from diverse backgrounds such as science, engineering, sociology, technology and climatology, to name just a few. An approach that integrates various disciplines into the process of adaptation is emerging in many regions that deal with the compounded challenges in water and climate management.
With the need for increased and improved integration, adaptation to climate change and variability in contexts of water stress will need to be backed by an innovative research agenda.
Research that straddles multiple disciplines will not only help identify appropriate adaptation strategies, but will also innovate the application of ICTs in areas such as data collection and decision support, and improved communication networks. This publication brought out by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) discusses current trends, conceptual models and the need for an integrated research agenda in the domain of ICTs, climate change and water, with special reference to regions of high biophysical vulnerabilities to climate change and variability.