By MacKenzie C. Babb
IIP Staff Writer
More than 400 global policymakers, development chiefs and technology leaders have gathered in California for a three-day conference to discuss using connection technologies, like the Web and mobile phones, to advance sustainable development in the fields of health, the environment, agriculture and economic growth.
The February 2–4 conference at Stanford University, “Rio+2.0: Bridging Connection Technologies and Sustainable Development,” was sponsored by the U.S. government in preparation for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“As Rio+20, the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, approaches in June, we have a chance to learn lessons, build partnerships and put in place innovative strategies that can reshape the economic and environmental future of our entire planet,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said February 3 during her conference keynote address. She added that the collaboration offers “the rarest of opportunities to truly change the world and make a difference that will benefit billions of people.”
Jackson called on participants at the conference to find creative ways to apply existing and cutting-edge technologies to advance sustainable development around the world.
She said communications technologies, such as the Internet, SMS and mobile phones, have proven effective in helping underserved communities around the world gain access to information, better jobs and an improved quality of life.
“In my travels as administrator, I have been to parts of the world where it seemed like everyone had access to a cellphone, but not everyone had access to clean water,” Jackson said. “The opportunities are there to use that technology to make a difference.”
She said connection technologies have the potential to bring together stakeholders from across the spectrum, helping governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and individuals share information about sustainable development.
The administrator added that new technologies allow laws, regulations and compliance assistance to be made available on the Internet and on mobile phones and also simplify the process of reporting environmental violations and corrupt practices.
“Through broad public and private collaboration, made possible through new technology, we can show the world how to build 21st-century urban communities where the environment, health, social inclusion and economic prosperity all go hand in hand,” Jackson said.
She was joined at the conference by several State Department leaders, including Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert Hormats; Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones; and Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross.
Other U.S. government participants included Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education and Economics Ann Bartuska; the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Senior Counselor and Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill; and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.