Development, Global Environmental Concerns, and Developing Countries

1.1 The emerging development paradigm puts a great deal of premium on sustainability. No matter how it is defined, sustainable development (1) assumes added significanc e and urgency in most developing countries where there have been too many development projects that were either unsustained or unsustainable . In recent years, global environmental concerns have compounded, rather than ameliorate, the Third World's develop ment problems. It is no longer sufficient merely to evolve and implement sound development projects; the projects must meet a rapidly evolving plethora of environmental standards as well. Such demands put a heavier burden still on developing Regions that a re already overburdened coping with survivalist issues, such as the provision of food and shelter, education and health care delivery for their rapidly growing populations. And yet, in a real and practical sense, developing countries cannot afford to ignor e global environmental concerns; they must plan and implement their development priorities and goals in the context of global concerns for a cleaner planet Earth, as well as the sustainability of its valuable resources.

1.2 Earth Summit '92 more than any other single global event, has demonstrated the urgency of concerted action by developed and developing countries to arrest serious manifestations of environmental disequilibrium, especially in the form of biodiversity loss, ozone depletion, climatic chang e, and pollution of international waters. It has always been realized, however, that developing countries require substantial and sustained help in order to effectively address the multifaceted challenges of environmental management. The Global Environment al Facility (GE ) was established, in response, as a joint project of the World Bank, UNEP and UNDP to provide grant assistance to developing countries to address environmental global issues in policy making and in the execution of projects at the local l evel. The GEF pilot phase has ended; a critical evaluation of the impact of that pilot phase has been carried out; and the three implementing agencies are now focusing more sharply on the question of institutional development and capacity building for sust ainable development.

1.3 Although developing countries share many characteristics that have been well documented and are well known, they differ significantly in many vital respects. For example, it is generally recognized that the Africa Region needs more help, over a longer period, than other Regions of the developing world in virtually all aspects of initiatives designed to promote sustainable development. Therefore, addressing Africa's development priorities generally, and the environmental aspects of sustainable development in particular, entails considerable resource investments and tremendous challenge that must be shared at national, regional and international levels. The study reported here is a result of such collaborative effort on an increasingl y important aspect of environmental management that is little understood in Africa.

1.4 The following interrelated aspects of the objective of this study will be emphasized and illustrated at every opportunity:

IT (2) use to inculcate environmental consciousness, especially at the policy and decision making levels of African society;

IT use to enhance environmental quality in planning, implementation, and evaluation of development activities at every political level in Africa; and

IT use to promote, in Africa, specific GEF concerns, that is, biodiversity loss, pollution of international waters, ozone depletion, and climate change.

Capacity Building for Environmental Management, IT, and the African Situation

1.5 It has been recognized for some time th at weak human and institutional capacities are a critical constraint to sustainable development. Under the GEF mandate, and in the context of this study, capacity building (3) includes a local (African) level ability to design and execute development proje cts which are sensitive to global environmental concerns by using appropriate communications and information technologies. Ultimately, it is a question of how African countries, institutions and organizations acquire a specific type of knowledge, and how t his knowledge is internalized and used to promote and sustain the socioeconomic transformation of the Region.

1.6 As the problems of the global environment have become more pressing and better understood, it is envisaged that the revolution in communications and information technologies will have a major impact on how humankind manages the global environment to pr omote or enhance socioeconomic development This expectation is being translated into reality in North America and much of Europe. The indications are that some countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia are beginning to relate to environmental management in the same manner.

1.7 The position of the Africa Region in all of this is largely uncharted. Specifically, we have precious little information on the capacity of African countries and their institutions to use information and telecommunications technologies for policy formu lation, decision making and management generally. and for environmental decision making and management in particular. This study hopes to make a useful contribution towards helping to make African societies and institutions, at local national, and regional levels significant participants in the use of information technologies as a vital component of managing the global e nvironment.

Terms of Reference for the Study

1.8 The GEF-specified terms of reference for the study are as follows

(a) Undertake a review of lessons learned with regard to the use of computer mediated technologies and networking for research, policy and management in Africa;

(b) Provide a general assessment of current capabilities, trends and initiatives, as well as sources of strength and expertise and patterns of collaboration;

(c) Provide at least two detailed case studies of successfully institutionalized end user-driven information technology systems (e.g. macro modeling, debt or customs management, environmental inventory, etc)

(d) Identify the key elements for the success or failure, highlighting key external and internal enabling and constraining factors as agents and agencies attempt to institutionalize capabilities by use of information technology.

The output will be a report with a conceptual and literature review chapter on IT and capacity building, an analysis of case studies, and recommendations and options for maximizing capacity building for the global environment.

Organization of the Study

1.9 The remainder of this study is organized into five chapters. In chapter two, the study's conceptual and related issues are discussed and illu strated with examples of various environment- related activities that are facilitated by using appropriate formation technologies. Chapter three comprises a literature review of the use, in Africa, of information technologies (or computers) in research, pol icy making and management. An overview of current African capabilities, trends and initiatives in the area is also presented in the chapter. Two detailed case studies of institutionalized end user-driven information technology systems in Nigeria constitute chapter four. Chapter five comprises an assessment of the enabling and constraining factors that should be taken into account in any discussion or action on African capability building for using information technologies to enhance environmental quality. F inally, in chapter six, specific recommendations and options for action are put forward, for the consideration of the GEF, on the basis of experience and insights gained during the study.

1.10 A number of illustrative material has been included to facilit ate the reading of the report. An executive summary is at the beginning; the list of references, the acronyms and abbreviations used, as well as the consultants' short biodata, appear at the end. Information about ARCIS, the firm that carried out the study , is provided on the verso of the cover page.