The Sustainable Development Networking Programme in Pakistan was started in 1992 by UNDP and managed by IUCN. It has been working since then to promote access to information on sustainable human development by different sectors of society. At the time SDNP was established, there was little electronic networking in Pakistan and so it took on the role of a pioneer in promoting the use of electronic mail and networks.
Given the lack of available networking infrastructure at the start of the project, considerable efforts and investments had to be made for its establishment. These efforts, along with a dramatic rise of interest in the Internet globally, have led to significant developments around the Internet in Pakistan. There are now a number of private-sector Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who provide connectivity for a fee. Thus, SDNP’s focus shifted more towards promoting the availability and exchange of quality information on sustainable human development.
Operational since December 1992, SDNP, it has been supported from the start by IUCN Pakistan, through management and providing advice and direction on almost a day-to-day basis. During this period, SDNP was able to successfully achieve the objectives proposed, by setting up operational email nodes in five major cities (Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta) with a large number of users (around 5000 nodes at the end of 1998), and internet connectivity in two major cities (Islamabad and Karachi). It also played a major role in raising awareness about the use of electronic networks and trained a large number of users in this area. In addition, it undertook activities to promote electronic information in Pakistan, such as creating repositories for pubic domain software, setting up electronic bulletin boards, working with other networking groups, and providing good technical support to users. SDNP was also active in Internet education in Pakistan, conducting free weekly workshops and an on-line response to queries. The SDNP hosted Cybermart, a daily electronic leaflet for advertisements and announcements. Its email service operated successfully on a cost-recovery basis, an innovation suggested by IUCN that has positively affected the project and the design of the new phase.
Apart from connectivity, SDNP’s mandate was to further exchange information related to sustainable human development. To achieve this, SDNP setup various electronic mailing lists and discussion groups on thematic areas like environment, health, economics, women’s issues and so on. SDNP subscribes to international newsgroups for some of these and distributes them to its members. Furthermore, Pakistan-wide discussion groups have been setup and are exchanged with other networks in Pakistan. Numerous periodicals related to Sustainable Human Development (SHD) are distributed on the network.
SDNP also works with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute to setup a clipping service (maintained by SDPI and hosted by SDNP) on environment, economic planning and development, agriculture and national security. SDNP has provided consultancy free of charge to organizations working in the development sector to help them with their communication needs.
SDNP has also helped organizations access vital information, some of which was used to deal with emergencies. Some of this information has helped in disaster management, public litigation and policy planning. One such incident was the help provided to Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Center, Lahore to procure critical information related to a chlorine gas poisoning accident. However, such activities have been conducted mostly on an informal and ad hoc basis. SDNP also assisted in setting up a local web server with web pages for SDNP, UNDP and Edunet, bringing the entire resources of Edunet – the largest educational database (600MB) in Pakistan with thousands of articles on various topics – on-line.
Thus SDNP has been instrumental in initiating a number of activities to help achieve the development objectives of the project and to promote sustainable human development. It has made some efforts to improve the implementation of Agenda 21 through the NCS in Pakistan by facilitating increased access to information, knowledge and expert advice and by increased communications between stakeholders locally, nationally and globally. This has been all the more possible because of its association with IUCN Pakistan, as IUCN’s own member and partner networks have been shared with SDNP. In addition, all the SDNP offices have been housed within IUCN’s programme offices. This has helped to engender greater understanding of sustainable development among SDNP staff.
For more information: http://www.sdnpk.org