Climate Change, Innovation & ICTs Project

Olinca Marino
Publication Date
February 16, 2012

This case study from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom (UK)'s "Climate Change, Innovation and ICTs" research project, funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and managed by the University's Centre for Development Informatics (CDI),  describes a multi-stakeholder initiative that sought to build city-wide climate change information in Mexico. The main driver for the Virtual Centre on Climate Change (CVCCCM) in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) has been the urgent need to act on the already present environmental impacts provoked by climate change in Mexico City. The rationale for the Centre was that it would provide not just evidence and advice to policymakers, but also help inform the broader society - always enabled by information and communication technology (ICT)-based networks and other digital tools.

Among the Centre's initial knowledge production tasks related to climate change are the following: assessment of air and water quality impact; vulnerability of conservation areas; the economics and politics of climate change; poverty as a risk factor in implementation of public policies; and efforts to popularise climate change science via social networks. Based on the results of this work, the Centre has been able to make very detailed scientific proposals around: climate change and water, air, and ground resources; the health sector; public services; and land use planning.

"As would be expected for a virtual organisation, CVCCCM makes extensive use of ICTs, particularly its website but also email for communication between participants, and e-science and GIS [Global Information System] applications for modelling and mapping climate change effects and predictions. These are, in the main, the applications that can be seen as mediating the [Figure 1, page 2] chain from data to knowledge production by scientists." The CYCCCM webpage (averaging between 12 and 15 visits per day in 2008), its Twitter account (started operation in October 2010, accumulating 741 tweets by mid-2011 with some 690 followers), and Facebook page, including 11 videos (receiving more than 2,000 visits between November 2010 and late 2011) are designed to contribute to its objectives of influencing public policies that aim to increase adaptive capacity,  reduce vulnerability of different social sectors, and concentrate information and coordinate research efforts.

The evaluation of the venture suggests some successes in terms of knowledge and institution building, with 50 organisations submitting research proposals during the two phases, 30 being registered with CVCCCM, and with more than 20 participating in both the development and dissemination of climate change research. ICTs have helped create a new set of specific information on climate change effects, causes, and strategic actions for adaptation and mitigation in Mexico City, including: 18 study reports; documentation of meetings and workshops;  and two documents of diverse proposals for Mexico City decisionmakers. However, "[t]here has been no ICT-enabled dialogue between scientists, decisionmakers and civil society, and the other stakeholders have not been engaged with - nor have they contributed to - the social media applications."

Recommendations include the following:

  • "Incentivise climate change researchers to engage with policymakers and others....
  • Foster integrated tripartite [among researchers, policymakers, and civil society organisations] climate change research....
  • Customise use of ICTs to climate change audience, purposes, and context....Academic reports will not suit a general or policymaking audience - short briefings, interactive demonstrations, GIS/map-based graphics, audio and visual presentation may all be more relevant.....
  • When using social media, aim for interaction on climate change not broadcast....[R]eports were simply placed on the website, videos made by the researchers were placed on YouTube, tweets were broadcast. What was needed instead, was a plan for interactive use of the digital tools; use that would engage with and listen to the wider stakeholders in climate change. Examples might have been a more general climate change space in which others could upload videos, post reports, blog and comment, and so forth."
Mexico City's Virtual Climate Change Centre

Email from Richard Heeks and Angelica Ospina to The Communication Initiative on February 15 2012, and the Nexus for ICTs, Climate Change and Development website on March 27 2012.