Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are today's ICTs a good example of 'sustainable Development?'

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs." All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time.

Do today's ICTs and their use meet these criteria? This question is more difficult than it seems.
Currently there is great optimism among development practitioners for the achievement of the millennium development goals through ICTs. Recent research has shown that where there is deliberate use of ICTs for the achievement of development, higher levels of success towards this end have been achieved. This research has illustrated how strategic use of ICTs can leapfrog poor communities towards benefitting from resources and the essentials of development.

At the same time, there is a global surge in the demand and consumption of ICTs. This has equally put pressure on the ICT manufacturing industry to meet the rising demand. However, as a result of this increased necessity of ICTs, two issues that represent some of the greatest challenges of our time arise;
1. Sourcing Raw material for production

It has become evident that today's ICTs are not possible without the use of microprocessors and microprocessors are made using a mineral called Coltan. At present, 80% of the worlds known Coltan is sourced from war-torn Eastern Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC. The high value of this mineral has motivated warring factions in the region to fight for exploitation rights much to the detriment of the local wildlife and environment. Mined by hand, the mining of this radioactive mineral has adverse health effects such as cancer on the miners and their families who rank among the most impoverished people in the world.
2.Disposal of ICT waste and environmental sustainability

Technological advancements are so dynamic that at every moment new ICTs are introduced and old ones are disposed of. With the influx of demand for new, there is also an influx of waste from disposal of the old. These two important issues receive less attention than those that are concerned with utilization mentioned above. They too are an ICT issue.

At the expense of entire tribes, the world's manufacturers are meeting the world's insatiable appetite for technology. At the expense of the planet, the world's consumers are not yet adept at disposing of their technological waste. There are adverse implications on the technological industry to raise the Coltan issue. But human rights and dignity must prevail in the Congo for the rest of the globe's inhabitants to use ICTs with a free conscience. ICT practitioners must consider posterity and push for the end of conflict in this volatile region for the sake of future generations. As consumers we must develop an environmental sense. We must be conscious of extractive tendencies and address them with recycling and rejuvenation of the world's scarce resources. As development practitioners, we must think about sustainable development and to what extent we are working towards it at all times.


Buskens, I., & Webb, A. (2009). Africa women and ICTs, investigating technology, gender and empowerment. New York: Zed books.
Coltan and your mobile: a mopocket repentance and mobile community call to action. (2006, October 1). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from mopocket:
Coltan fever: Imperialism continues. (2009, June 20). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from fundacion europea coorporacion nort-sul:
ICT for Development: Contributing to the Millennium Development Goals; Lessons Learned from Seventeen infoDev Projects. (2010, October 27). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from infodev:
ICT for Development; Contributing to the millenium development goals. lessons learnt from seventeen infodev projects. (2003). Washington, DC: The World Bank.
UNDP. (2010, October 27). millenium development goals. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from UNDP:
What is Sustainable Development?; Environmental, economic and social well-being for today and tomorrow. (2010, October 27). Retrieved October 27, 2010, from iisd2010:


  1. Your blog is great你的部落格真好!!
    If you like, come back and visit mine:

    Thank you!!Wang Han Pin(王翰彬)
    From Taichung,Taiwan(台灣)

  2. My hello from France! After having visited your blog, I e could go without comment. I congratulate you on your blog!
    Maybe I would have the opportunity to welcome you on mine too!
    Have a nice day