Staying Connected to promote sustainable development

4 May 2012, New York, United States—UNITAR New York Office organized a half-day workshop on Connectedness and Sustainability as part of its Rio Preparation Forum in collaboration with the Digital Energy and Sustainability Solutions Campaign (DESSC). The workshop highlighted the possibilities of social media and ICTs as “enablers of change” for sustainable development as well as instruments for outreach and raising awareness on sustainability issues. Also, it pointed out challenges for Information and Computers Technology (ICTs) and social media, especially for developing and least developed countries, such as establishing Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and capacity-building of IT skills.
 
IBM’s Global Offering Lead in Global Business Services Strategy and Innovation Practice Mr. David Post, the moderator of the morning panel on “Social Media for Sustainable Development,” stressed the importance to find mechanisms to translate digital engagement into actions in the physical world. Ms. Nancy Groves, social media focal point from the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), showcased DPI’s activities to increase the impact of the online conversation on different social media platforms in the Future We Want” campaign across the United Nations system. Ms. Emily Ross, manager of special initiatives at the UN Foundation explained the benefits of partnering with influential partners to increase your outreach in online campaigning, using the example of teaming up with the rock band Linkin Park to support the UN’s and the UN Foundation’s initiative of “sustainable energy for all.” Mr. Laurent Besançon from the World Bank’s Information & Communication Technologies Department presented lessons learned from implementing social media platforms for community mapping. This initiative uses social media to “create a voice” for local beneficiaries of development projects in Dandale, Tanzania. “The use of technology in development is revolutionizing the way people have access to services,” he concluded. Mr. Ashok Kamal, co-founder and CEO of Bennu Inc., shared insight to gaming psychology, implemented in many social media games as tools to promote sustainability.
 
The second panel concentrated on “ICTs, business and the UN: cooperating to promote ICT’s for sustainable development.” The moderator for that session, Mr. Stephen Harper, Intel’s global director, environment and energy policy, explained the difference between “greening of ICTs” through increasing energy efficiency of ICT machines and infrastructures and “greening by ICTs” by using of ICTs to “green” economic process, e.g. through smart grids. Mr. Robert Kirkpatrick, Director of UN Global Pulse reflected upon impacts of harnessing big data for development. He pointed the correlation between drops in cell phone usage to predict increasing financial stress for local populations in developing countries. Mr. John Tuccillo of Schneider Electrics stressed the importance of increasing awareness of the potential savings in energy efficiency. Mrs. Kathrin Winkler from the sustainability program of EMC discussed the challenge of e-waste and the opportunities of big data in cloud computing to build resilience for government services. In a broader scale, Mr. Nate Hurst, HP’s director of global environmental and energy policy emphasized the role of technology to drive governments with their innovation in their economy and social welfare. He explained how HP provides incentives for employees to “connect” with NGOs in developing countries
 
Overall, participants from Member States, civil society, and the UN system highly appreciated this exchange of ideas for social media and ICTs for sustainable development and engaged in a lively discussion.