Last week I wrote about the way drone technology was being adopted by environmental activists in Australia to facilitate the role of ‘environmental watchdog’, particularly in remote mining areas where monitoring environmental regulatory compliance is infrequent and difficult. Commercial availability and falling prices of drones have given activists an accessible way to scrutinise industrial activity from the air, allowing them to witness and record both environmental impacts and instances of environmental regulatory or procedural violations. Social media complements this by providing a mechanism for sharing and raising awareness of activities that might otherwise go unheeded.
Today I will examine how the use of drones for environmental activism is playing out in developing and emerging countries where poverty, technological infrastructure, and laxer regulatory regimes both help and hinder the effective deployment of drones. In a globalized but unequal world, I would like to explore whether ICTs provide the same opportunities for combatting environmental degradation in poorer, developing nations as they do in the West. Do drones help ensure better environmental practices everywhere, or are they merely helping to transfer dirty environmental practices from rich to poor countries as multinationals increasingly offshore their activities? Are drones serving to bridge or widen the digital divide?