Climate technology must go hand-in-hand with greater digital equality, minister says

Written by Joseph Anderson on 5 November 2021 in News
News

Panellists at COP26 Fringe event call for focus on promoting connectivity in the Global South

Credit: Pixabay

Addressing digital inequality in the Global South will be key to tackling climate change, according to an expert panel of Scottish public sector technologists.

At the COP26 Fringe Festival hosted this week by PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, panellists debated how 5G and other connectivity technologies can help tackle the climate emergency

The panel was chaired by Holyrood journalist Andrew Learmouth included: Scottish Government minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise, Ivan McKee; Dr Muhammad Ali Imran from the University of Glasgow; Paul Coffey of the Scotland 5G Centre; and Gwilym Gibbons from Crichton Trust, a charitable trust that manages the Crichton Estate, which houses university facilities, numerous businesses, and a church in the grounds of an 85-acre estate in Dumfries.

An audience member asked the panel: “How can we ensure the rest of the world is carried along with the technology we're developing here? Climate change was started in the west, but it is the Global South bearing the brunt of it.”


Related content


In response, McKee said that “issues around equality, both domestically and internationally, are fundamental to the Scottish Government’s approach to climate technology,” adding that “developing technology to help with the issues in developing countries is very much a two-way street and is something we'd be keen to follow up on”.

Imran said that rolling out 5G into rural areas and the Global South – a term used to describe the lower-income countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia – would allow those communities to find innovative ways of tackling climate change issues which are unique to them, adding that “as well as those larger scale disparities, we also need to remember the divide in tech access between communities in larger urban settings”.

“Inclusion and equal access is central to the Crichton Trust approach to researching 5G and connectivity,” added Gibbons, “as we function in a rural environment, that can give more insight into how this tech can benefit environments in the Global South”.

As an example of the disparity in connectivity between the developed world and developing nations, Coffey said: “Over four billion people globally aren’t connected, but new technological advances and innovation can bring connectivity to more people in a cost-effective way. In Nigeria, when the pandemic hit and school children were sent home, many had no way of being educated, as opposed to the home working and online classes we’ve seen here.”

Another audience member asked the panel if there are “women, people of colour and indigenous people at the design tables, inclusively, and not just on the periphery?”.

McKee said that “there is more awareness of the importance of an equitable and inclusive approach, particularly in business, but also in government,” adding that the importance of inclusivity is becoming more recognised because otherwise companies end up with products that have a limited number of uses.

Finally, Imran said “the challenges of diversity and lack of opportunities can be overcome by removing the digital divide, because it is the mother of many other divides”, and that economic benefits and jobs can be driven by this inaccessibility of digital solution and connectivity.

About the author

Joseph Anderson is a reporter at Holyrood, where you can read lots more coverage of the publication's COP26 Fringer Festival.

Share this page

Tags

Categories

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM READERS

Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Defra to create UK-wide digital system to collect rubbish information
27 January 2022

Department seeks feedback on platform for use by refuse-handlers

Minister urges officials to end ‘reliance on video meetings’ – but unions hit back at return-to-office demand
26 January 2022

Departments told to fill up buildings once again, but representatives claim any insinuations about productivity are ‘nonsense

Working from home: guidance ends in England but remains in Scotland
20 January 2022

Government called time on policy yesterday, but advice is set to remain in place north of the border until next month

Consumer regulator seeks £100k leader for algorithm work
19 January 2022

CMA created team last year to better understand and oversee the use of automated technologies in business