Low-tech cellphones spread climate and jobs news
I’ve been quoted on DailyClimate.org’s weekly feature about new and noteworthy developments on climate change. Editor Douglas Fischer wrote this in his 9 August despatch:
FM radio and cellular phones are fostering a rising awareness of climate impacts and mitigation in some of the globe’s remotest and most undeveloped regions. In Nepal, community radio has long been used to spread news about social issues. But lately the focus has shifted to climate change, said Pitambar Sigdel, a senior reporter for Annapurna Post, the national daily newspaper.
“They are playing some interesting roles,” she said via e-mail. “Local people are so much (more) conscious about the importance of forestry and natural resources” and are sharing information about reforestation and planting as a result. It also serves as an early warning system of sorts about landslides and other natural disasters, she said.
In rural Uganda, farmers use mobile telephones to pass along information about the impacts and control of climate change. In Malawi, Mudziwathu Community Radio finds listeners rely on text messages and laptops connected via Zain modems to communicate climate and environmental questions.
Of course, these informal networks are not just spreading environmental news. In India, particularly in urban settlements, the phone can be seen as an indicator of the uncertainty and fluidity of the modern job market. Rahul Goswami, who works with India’s National Agriculture Innovation Programme, said the spread of cheap mobile service has facilitated the creation of a cheap alert system for “tens of thousands of informal workers in towns and cities” that points those seeking work to spots where the next 50 or 100 rupees can be earned. “For South Asia, mobile phone usage shows how the informal worker tries to do her best to adapt to increasing uncertainty about both work and wage,” he said.