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For Inveneo, Addressing the Global Digital Divide Calls for Business, Not Charity

Children in Maasai Mara, Kenya use technology deployed by Inveneo, a nonprofit social enterprise. Photo courtesy of Inveneo. A rumor that the FCC released a proposal last month for nation-wide, free, public Wi-Fi was quickly dismissed as wishful thinking, but sparked a much-needed national conversation about the digital divide. Kristin Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Inveneo, has been preoccupied with disparities in technology access at a global level since 2004. Inveneo, a nonprofit social enterprise, delivers affordable (but not free), reliable, and sustainable broadband to communities in developing countries.

Reinventing the Asian Tiger

The first day of the UNEP Switch-Asia Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) conference kicked off with all the requisite excitement and enthusiasm that all first days of conferences come packaged with, as the 130 government officials, business leaders, and civil society pioneers congregated at the conference hall of the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. (more…)

Green Growth, Water and Gender: An Interview with Marcia Brewster

The World Water Forum provided a unique opportunity for some of the authors and directors of wH2O: The Journal for Gender, Water and Sanitation at the University of Pennsylvania to meet face-to-face for the first time. Editor Caroline D’Angelo, co-chair and Editor-in-Chief of wH2O, sat down with Marcia Brewster, an wH2O author, to discuss green growth, water and gender. Ms. Brewster is a phenom in the water and development world: she has worked with the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Water Association, Gender and Water Alliance and the World Water Council. She also is a contributing author to UNESCO’s World Water Development Report, and chaired the IANWGE Task Force on Gender and Water. While much of her work and expertise lies in gender and water, she has recently been a part of the Water and Green Growth Project.

Green Growth is Inspiring but Not Watertight

Each conference comes with its own set of catchphrases and the World Water Forum is no exception. A popular one that’s been buzzing around is “the new industrial revolution” or as it’s colloquially known, “green growth”. Coined in 2008, the definition of green growth differs depending on who’s using it. In general, green growth refers to the idea of furthering economic growth within the limits of the natural ecosystem without detracting from the possibility for future development. But even after having over 22 hours devoted to green growth development, with stakeholders present from across the spectrum, it is the silence on certain issues that could sink this new possible engine of economic growth.

Introduction to Green Growth Challenges and Goals

The title of this session was “Green Growth: No Nature, No Water, No Growth.” When one contemplates the topic of green growth as it relates to both human innovation and ‘nature’, a compassionate thinker might also imagine what a rabbit or dolphin might say about its plight if it could speak about the associated ‘nature’ descriptor of this session theme.  While this session unfortunately did not incorporate a dolphin or bunny agenda, there were fortunately strong messages conveyed which described the need for transparency, restraint, and partnership.  The theme of this year’s session was ‘solutions.’ This theme pushes people to discuss how to accomplish agreed-upon goals instead of continuing to identify the same problems repeatedly. Several speakers peppered talk of the upcoming Rio+20 conference into their discussion on the challenges of solving future water-related problems from intensifying demand.

Decoupling: A false faith?

We can’t be obsessed with the growth imperative anymore, we have to de-couple economic growth from the use of resources and its environmental impacts. Be resource-efficient, be smart, be innovative. No chance to miss these proclamations at the WRF 2011 as they resonate everywhere . Why? Evidently the classical model of economic growth measured by GDP that should deliver prosperity fails in one important aspect: whilst creating goods and services, it destroys one of its crucial bases; natural capital.

Joining the pieces of the puzzle

In the first plenary session of the day the speakers showed incontestable facts demonstrating that keeping business as usual is not an option that will allow our children to enjoy the same living standard we do. Beside showing the need to change, every speaker proposed it’s own approach on what and how to change. What lacked was the connection between the different solutions presented. It was like looking at the pieces of the same puzzle – on sustainable resources management – but without seeing the whole picture. It is not an easy task to address such a complex question in 15 minutes. Moreover the large amount of information provided by each speaker did not help the participants to gain a clear message to take home.

Pay if you want us to change

Technology transfer

Inclusive sustainable development has become the buzz word for conferences. The consensus among various stakeholders remains the same: there is a crucial need to change the infrastructure of developing countries if environment resources need to be preserved, protected and efficiently utilized. Also, developed countries have become more receptive to the idea of engaging with the environment not just on a policy level but also on a grass-roots level through civil society initiatives. But what is interesting to note are the conflicting positions of academics and political leaders. In the opening session of the World Resources Forum, Alicia Kaudia, Environment Secretary Kenya spoke on bridging the technological gap between the developed and the developing world.

Grow Green!

There is a misunderstanding. We thought growth was about having and producing more, about improving quality of life. What happened? The concept of growth didn’t really take into account the whole life cycle of products and services we created and consumed. Without the internalization of current negative externalities we won’t be able to understand what growth really is, therefore not being able to grow at all.