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Mexico produces between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes of electronic waste a year. However, there is no real link between ICT and environmental policies. There is a lack of public policies for the “clean” use of ICT, and so the country is missing out on opportunities to make use of these technologies to mitigate climate change. Olinca Marino and Enrique Rosas produced a report on ICT and environmental sustainability, identifying these and other problems.

Current overview of ICT in Mexico

The social and economic inequalities between different sectors of the Mexican population are reflected in their unequal access to ICT. According to the Mexican Internet Association, barely 30 million people out of the total population of 110 million have access to internet. As a result of the low level of investment in infrastructure, Mexico is one of the countries with the lowest broadband (1 Mbps) density, yet it has the highest tariffs within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – up to five times higher than in the United States.

Similarly, Mexico’s cellular phone service is one of the most expensive in the OECD, but its telecommunications infrastructure is one of the least developed within the bloc. This is partly because the country’s telecommunications sector is a monopoly, in spite of monopolies being forbidden by law, as the report’s author indicates. But she adds that it is important to highlight that the introduction of double or triple play) has resulted in overall costs beginning to decline.

Action on climate change neglected

Mexico is the country with the second most diverse ecosystems in the world, but they are at the same time among the most vulnerable to climate change. Environmental degradation has exacerbated pre-existing poverty and has contributed to social and economic problems like migration, unemployment and insecurity. One out of three Mexicans currently lives in areas at risk of flooding.

However, the recently proposed digital agenda for Mexico does not recognise the need for measures to counteract climate change. It could be said that there is no real connection between digital and environmental policies. According to Olinca Marino, this is partly due to other problems, like insecurity and the imminent presidential elections, “distracting the attention of legislators and political agendas in general.” So Mexico is passing up the opportunities provided by ICT to achieve mitigation of climate change. Unless a strong, clear digital agenda is achieved as outlined above, it is unlikely that the situation will change by 2030, as was initially forecast.

Lack of rigour and clarity in state initiatives

There is still much to be done in regard to electronic waste management. Mexico produces between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes a year of this waste. However, recycling is still not a common practice in the country: there is a need to build awareness of the problems posed by electronic waste, and to create a formal system for handling electronic waste in the country.

“There is no clarity on government or private sector actions on electronic waste,” said Marino. “Electronic waste is categorised as ‘special waste’ rather than ‘hazardous waste.‘” Instead of a public policy at federal level to handle the problem, every municipality has to tackle it separately.

Action is definitely required to encourage awareness about the impacts – negative and positive – of ICT on the environment. According to Marino, such action “should be based on information campaigns to make the population aware of consumption habits in general and the consumption of technology in particular. Information campaigns are also needed to highlight the contribution that proper use of ICT could make to mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”

The new proposal for a digital agenda contains initiatives that are lacking in rigour, such as: “Foment electronic procedures and a culture of rational and responsible use of paper; promote the treatment of electronic waste.”

To set a clear digital agenda, it is important for civil society to participate in creating policies; but this participation is not an established practice because of what might be called people’s “political disenchantment.”

This article was written for APC’s GreeningIT initiative and is based on the report by LaNeta and the Global Information Society Watch 2010 report for Mexico .

Photo by 1Sock. Used with permission under Creative Commons licence 2.0