Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges are major problems that international development faces today. They can range from education to healthcare, gender equality to climate change. These are the issues that we are facing today that need to be solved for tomorrow’s children. While these challenges often disproportionately affect people in the Global South, it is the responsibility of the world to solve them.

The conceptualization of Grand Challenges has changed throughout the decades. What used to be country by country problems are now seen as global issues. I think the recognition that all actors should have a seat at the table has greatly impacted this shift in responsibility. Multistakeholder participation is now seen as a key component of implementing any international strategies or programs. By including a variety of actors, the international community is beginning to understand just how connected and interwoven our world is. The problems faced in one country, may be the result of another’s misguided help. Or the issues that one business is facing in implementing a strategy may be better supported with a partnership with similar companies. By connecting these links, we are learning that everyone has played a part in these Grand Challenges and it is going to take the cooperation of many stakeholders to solve them.

While approaches to development have yet to drastically shift on a national policy level or ODA level, individuals, organizations and communities are changing the way development is approached. I think that the MDG’s and the SDG’s have been a unifying factor in shifting the capabilities and programs of many organizations. I think the goals encouraged cooperation among individuals and organizations and greatly improved communication between communities and organizations. The MDG’s were a massive undertaking and I think professionals in the development field realized that they would never be able to achieve them without community input and feedback. While I do not think that all organizations listen to the communities they serve, nor is community engagement a new phenomenon, I think the MDG’s helped put these Global Challenges in perspective and forced people to realize just how large and systemic these problems were. This encouraged more people to look to the local level to make changes from the bottom up. These Grand Challenges can be daunting, however I think the local engagement and community involvement that has been rekindled in light of the MDG’s and SDG’s bodes well for the future of international development.

Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality is an important factor to consider when looking at inclusive sustainable development. Intersectionality is a concept for the multiple identities that people ascribe to and each of those identities combines within a person to create a unique experience and perspective on the world. It is these intersections that can create varying opinions within a major group. Female youth have a different identity and experience from male youth. One identity does not necessarily define your whole person, but rather the combination of many identities creates a complex identity that needs to be respected in each of the communities that that individual ascribes to.

Like we discussed in class, people with disabilities have many intersectionalities. By asking them to lump disabilities in with other major groups is to ignore their unique needs in each category of the major group’s framework. A female with disabilities in a rural, farming community has very different needs than a male, union worker with disabilities. All of these identities interplay with each other to create the experiences of individuals and the needs of a community.

When approaching inclusive sustainable development, all perspectives and experiences should be included. This is a major challenge for development. Including the voices from the major groups, who are often the most marginalized in society, will mean restructuring the goals, programs and outcomes of projects. But it is crucial that the intersectionalities of the community be considered. What are the gendered needs of this community? What are the needs of children, indigenous people, workers etc.? All of these factors need to be explored in a nuanced and cross sectional way. Also, development planners need to look at the needs of people not included in the major group’s framework, like persons with disabilities. Inclusive sustainable development means including everyone in every way. It is a tall order to fill and has yet to be achieved anywhere in the world. But by recognizing the intersectionalities of the people you are serving and their resulting needs, development can hopefully become a more nuanced and responsive field.

Inclusive Education

Inclusive education is a topic that greatly interests me. It is an international strategy that was first advocated for in the 90’s in international documents. Inclusive education, while not a right in all countries, is an educational model that encourages the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. Its pedagogical approach hinges on the belief that students with disabilities can and should be included with students without disabilities and students with disabilities are capable of being held to the same academic standards. The push for inclusive education has been simultaneously successful and challenging. Countries are now encouraged to enroll students with disabilities in general public schools, so their enrollment rates are increasing.

However, once students with disabilities are inside the classroom, they face another battle for the quality of their education. It is difficult to include students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms because whether it is an intellectual or physical disability, they often need specialized and individualized instruction. This presents a very difficult situation for mainstream teachers. Many mainstream teachers are not trained in special education, differentiated teaching or individualized instruction, so they are often at a loss for ways to truly include students with disabilities in the classroom.

Additionally, some disability communities do not want inclusive education. As I mentioned in the efficacy of global frameworks piece, these global goals and strategies are not universal, nor are they effective for everyone. While inclusive education may be an excellent option for some disability communities, others are advocating for their own special schools. Recently in another class, I had two professors from Gallaudet University come and discuss education for deaf persons. Through personal experience, they testified that special schools for deaf students are often the most effective way for these students to obtain a high quality of education. Even though they are separated from mainstream students, they have a tight knit community and the resources to effectively educate their students.

While in a mainstream school, one of the professors shared his challenges with the quality of education. Without the money, resources or knowledge to provide materials for him to learn, he was left sitting by himself, unengaged in class with only his textbook to inform him. When he transferred to a school for the deaf, he was able to make friends, have classroom discussions and participate in after school activities. While this experience does not speak for all deaf communities, it is important to remember that inclusive education is not a blanket solution to education for persons with disabilities.

Efficacy of Global and Regional Frameworks

International goals like the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) have many strengths and challenges. With the MDG’s specifically, I think they were most effective in spreading and promoting awareness about international development and the varying conditions of life across the world. For the most part, the goals in the MDG’s were not met, but I think a conversation was started about international development and what could be done to improve gender equality, increase literacy or provide adequate health care.

I think the goals also brought nuance to the concept of development and how it’s measured. Like Amartya Sen noted in the 90’s, development is so much more than just economic indicators. I think the MDG’s biggest strength were their ability to quantify a different way to measure development. The goals were not as comprehensive or inclusive as they should have been, but I think they paved the way for more complex and nuanced goals like the SDG’s. The MDG’s served as a beginning point for so many issues to be explored.

As we often discussed in class, I think one of the largest challenges these global frameworks face is implementation and monitoring. It is really difficult to ensure that these huge goals are effective and feasible. Countries are coming from all different contexts and historical backgrounds and it is difficult to rally together from so many different starting points. However, I think the biggest limitation to the efficacy of global frameworks is the Western dominated ideals that they inherently internalize. For the most part, the West is the major governing body that creates these goals, so the ideals and standards they are striving for are things that the West values. The goals are not universal, nor are they conducive to all cultures and ideologies. I think this is a challenge for global goals, but a place for great opportunity for regional frameworks. If the global goals do not fit the goals of the area, then the regional bodies can create their own strategies and indicators.

Education is a field where many disconnects can occur between local communities and global goals. For example, if the disability community in an area does not want inclusive, mainstream education, then I think the regional frameworks can adjust parts of Goal 4 to reflect those wishes. Not everyone in the international community agrees on education, so I do not think that all communities should be held to the standards of the West and their best practices. I think the efficacy of global frameworks can be best summarized by reminding ourselves that development will never be universal. What works for some communities will not work for others and global goals will never work for everyone.

Multistakeholder Internet Governance

Mulitstakeholder Internet Governance can begin to solve some of the issues that I highlighted in the Digital Divides piece. With many private companies, service providers and national and international governance, the internet can be constantly monitored for quality and efficiency. With so many different parties involved, hopefully policies can reflect the needs of all different types of groups. The issue of language accessibility can be addressed if multistakeholders from around the world are given a seat at the table and are able to create public policies or recommendations that emphasize language development as part of the development of the Internet. This approach to IG could have huge impacts on the quality of information that users have access too. I think it is good that not just governments are discussing policy issues around Internet Governance, but all stakeholders are encouraged to get involved in the process. I think this creates a much stronger and more comprehensive approach to governing the internet.

This multistakeholder approach has huge impacts on the inclusivity of the internet. The Internet Governance Forum website states that “the main aim of the IGF is to facilitate inclusive, productive discussions on Internet related public policy issues from a general perspective, while keeping all stakeholders involved.” This method will greatly improve the ability for all parties to propose solutions to IG problems that may never been considered without their perspectives. For example, disability stakeholders may come forward with a new method to increase accessibility of information on websites for blind persons and with all of the stakeholders present; the changes could really be put into practice and made into policies. These cooperative and collaborative approaches to solving some of the most pressing issues for access and inclusivity have huge potential.

In addition to increased access, multistakeholder participation can allow collaboration on cyber security issues. The forum and its participants can work together to fight cyber attacks and increase connection and stability between countries and servers. With so many stakeholders present, unification against internet threats from terrorist groups like ISIS can be more succinct and effective.  The internet is an ever evolving entity that is growing and changing very quickly. With collaborative forums like IGF, the many stakeholders involved have the opportunity and capability to adapt to those changes in a unified and productive way.

Inclusive Education

In terms of inclusive education and its relation to the development spectrum, I took particular interest in the role of inclusive ICTs in education policy. In the publication, Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities, we learn the risks posed to learners with disabilities in the overall educational system. The World Report on Disability estimates between 93 and 150 million school-aged children with disabilities globally. These high numbers along with the strong vulnerability these children face to education exclusion is very problematic. ICTs can help bridge this gap by helping to increase the participation of students with disabilities. In particular, these ICTs include media and publication formats such as:

  1. MSWord, PowerPoint and PDF files
  2. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML 5)
  3. Videos with captioning
  4. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System)
  5. Books
  6. EPUB

As part of its policy objectives, the publication also explains the importance of providing access to an appropriate learning environment which is supported by inclusive ICTs for learners with disabilities. The policy objective has the long term outcome of learners with disabilities being able to effectively use inclusive ICTs towards their own learning preferences.

Inclusive education is an important contemporary issue in the development sector because an access to education provides the necessary framework to tackle many of the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to provide information access to community members in the informal settlement of Kibera, it is important to assess the education facilities within the community. Jitahidi Academy is a primary school in Kibera which plays an important role and serves as a great opportunity to implement these international objectives on inclusive education. Kenyan NGO Umande Trust implemented a sanitation and hygiene training program in the school. As outlined in their project report, “Promoting Eco-Sanitation and Water Services in People Settlement in Kibera, Wimma Likkuta,” the program was “meant to address the sanitation challenges facing the school” and teach aspects related to hygiene promotion and handwashing. The program involved fifty-seven students in which they were trained on important areas of sanitation such as handwashing and were informed of their sanitation options in the community. The students were then encouraged to share the information learned with other members of the community including friends, family and neighbors. Under the supervision of staff at Umande Trust, I was able to create a video project covering this project. This video project seeks to serve as a starting point for necessary ICTs for inclusive education within the settlement of Kibera.

Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Understanding that social groups, cultures and beliefs will be interconnected and cannot be viewed as separate in the development spectrum is crucial to remember. Intersectionality in provides us with the ability to be more effective in all areas of the development process whether it involves program management, program implementation, capacity management and building or monitoring and evaluation.

For my project, looking at intersectionality in Kibera and Kenya as a whole is the foundation for any proper project implementing. In particular, youth and ethnicity are two areas that share intersectionalities and need to be equally understood in the Kenyan context. In Kibera, its ethnic composition has resulted in the settlement having a sizable amount of ethnic conflicts in its history. In 2007, Umande Trust outlined the ethnic composition of the Kibera population as including:

Luo: 30%, Kikuyu: 20%, Kamba: 19%, Luhya: 14%, Others: 11%, Kalenjin: 6%

Youth in the African context is also integral to understand when it comes to the continent’s development. In Youth Development in Africa Policies and Trends at the Global Level, The 2006 United Nations Program on Youth was a small program within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs which had the main purpose of “informing and servicing intergovernmental processes on youth issues” (2). The program discusses the integration and intersectionalities of youth in development by grouping them into three clusters which include:

  1. Youth in a Global Economy: Globalization, Education, Employment, Hunger and Poverty
  2. Youth in Civil Society: Environment, Leisure, Participation, Intergenerational, ICT
  3. Youth and their Wellbeing: Health, HIV/AIDS, Drugs, Delinquency, Young Women, Armed Conflict

The document provides proposals for action which align well with my final project. Umande Trust has many youth projects which seek to address the intersectionalities between youth and the environment in Kibera. This document proposes for the environment that there is an integration of environmental training into formal media and an enhancing of the role of media as a tool for widespread dissemination of environmental issues for the youth.

In addition, in other literature regarding youth in Africa, we see the need for increased access to information and data to assess the well-being of African youth. As outlined in the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative report, Youth Policy and the Future of African Development, the summary of the study explains how “limited data hinder the measurement of the well-being of African youth” (6). In assessing the factors behind youth and poverty in settlements in Kibera, it is important to note how the report also describes that “youth unemployment rates are relatively high, with significant regional difference and adverse consequences such as poverty, migration and diseases” (6). In order to understand the factors behind poverty in the Kenyan and African context, concepts surrounding the youth and ethnicity are just two examples of how intersectionality is a must in contemporary development.

Multistakeholder Global Goverannce

In analyzing Multistakeholder Internet Governance and its connection with Sustainable Development, we learn about the Internet Goverannce Forum, a multistakeholder platform which serves as a technological platform to facilitate discussions on public policy and the internet. We are provided more information on the international connectivity this platform provides in the publication, Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multistakeholder Internet Governance. The publication discusses the 9th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held in Istanbul, Turkey from September 2-5, 2014. Leaders at the forum looked into “how providing access to information and communications technologies, including the Internet, could improve people’s lives and develop their capacity” (5). I found the sub-themes of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2014 interesting as they included:

  1. Content Creation, Dissemination and Use
  2. Internet as an Engine for Growth and Development
  3. IGF and The Future of the Internet Ecosystem
  4. Enhancing Digital Trust
  5. Internet and Human Rights
  6. Critical Internet Resources
  7. Emerging Issues

In addition to these sub-themes, I felt it was important to look at the makeup of the forum participants. There were a total of 2,403 onsite participants, 1,291 remote participants, 60 remote hubs with an estimated 1852 participants and 144 total countries represented (12). In terms of onsite participation, looking at the regional makeup is also important. Africa had a total of 190 participants, second least behind Eastern Europe with 133. In terms of onsite participation by stakeholder group, 779 participants were from civil society, with the unanimous majority. The private sector had 581 participants while the Government had 571 total. Interestingly, intergovernmental organizations had only 96 participants, the least out of all onsite stakeholder groups.

Assessing these statistics in the context of my project helps me look in particular at the regional representation of Africa and all relevant stakeholders. In comparison to the 780 participants in Western Europe, 745 participants from the host country and 405 participants from Asia Pacific really minimizes the significance of the 190 onsite participants from Africa. In terms of stakeholder participation, I found civil society’s significant majority interesting and reemphasizing the importance of this forum on providing information access to collective communities.

Global and Regional Frameworks

For multiple reasons, we understand how the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remain an important topic of discussion. Many are concerned with it because of the importance in learning from the mistakes implemented. The Post2015 UN Development Agenda explains how others concentrate on the present in order to “consider the implications of the financial crisis and the Great Recession in the world economy” (3). There were three different dimensions to the significance of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which included:

  1. “Recognition of the reality that a large proportion of people in the world were deprived and poor” (5).
  2. “It was a statement of good intentions that sought a time-bound reduction in poverty to improve the living conditions of those deprived and excluded” (5).
  3. It was an attempt to place this persistent problem, until then a largely national concern, on the development agenda for international cooperation” (5).

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were important in creating a sense of imagination by the international community. Ideally it was also a way in which governments could become accountable to people “just as the international community could be held accountable by national governments” (5). That being said, in actual real life, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not help alter the international approach to development because real life practice was unable to fully maintain that relationship of accountability between governments and civil society.

In terms of the overall limitations of global strategies and frameworks, looking at its large-scale structure is pivotal to understanding its strengths and weaknesses. Often, the large-scale structure of global frameworks such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) means that they are operating with a top-down approach. This poses the risk of development not being assessed from the grassroots level that it needs to be. It also means that the framework is weak in implementation ability. We learn of how “the limitations of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a construct, in conception and in design, provide some basis for an evaluation of the (MDGs) as a framework” (8). The document makes two interesting statements in which it describes the weakness of the (MDGs) as their strength, but also how their strength serves as their weakness. Its simplicity was its strength in that it was easy for the international community to comprehend and thus in theory implement. However, its simplicity led to the assumption that “one-size-fits-all” which fails to take into account the intersectionality and diversity of the development spectrum.




Digital Divide(s)

The “Digital Divide” entails the technological divide in which information access is inhibited in particular societies. As a result of this, more societies are technologically falling behind while others are dramatically moving forward. In Falling through the Net, we learn about how America has experienced growth in access to electronic services with households in rural, suburban and urban areas sharing a growth in the number of households who own PCs. That being said, the digital divide is still evident with income, race & origin, education, household type, age, religion and state all playing factors. It is important to realize that the concept of intersectionality when discussing the digital divide. The diverse demographics or the American household and family means that there are more factors surrounding the digital divide.

In addition, the digital divide connects to the topic of information access making it very relevant to my final project. In terms of addressing the digital divide in Africa, the “ICT Policy Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa” created a policy briefing called The State of Right to Information in East Africa. This briefing is included in my research and identifies the digital divide in relation to the Right to Information laws implemented in the Eastern African countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. As described in my review of relevant literature, only 13 out of 54 African countries have Right to Information laws (RTI). That being said, the countries with these laws have multiple issues in terms of overcoming restriction barriers in implementation.

In particular, these are the main facts behind the Right to Information laws in the following countries:  

  • Uganda: first country to pass an RTI law back in 2005
  • Rwanda: followed in 2013
  • Tanzania: published an RTI draft law in 2006 and nine years later in 2015
  • Kenya: published an RTI Bill in 2007, is yet to pass it into law, despite civil society pressure for government to fast-track adoption of the legislation
  • Summarize the legal provisions and restrictions to citizens’ right to information in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda