ICTs and Universalizing Important Information

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on enabling effective decision-making with extra attention paid specifically vulnerable groups and populations that have historically faced a significant impediment to development. These groups include  women (SDG target 5.5), developing countries, including African countries, least developed countries, land-locked developing countries, small-island developing States and middle-income countries (SDG target 10.6). Additionally Sustainable Development Goal 16.7 aims to “Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”.  Goal 16 in general focuses on providing information for decision-making and emphasizes that, in sustainable development, everyone is a user and provider of information considered in the broad sense. That includes data, information, experience and knowledge. The need for information arises at all levels, from that of senior decision-maker at the national and international levels to the grass-roots and individual levels.

Maybe the most obvious place in which information freedom should be prioritized is in the specific context of private international law. Private international law can best be accessed by a population that has access to individuals with expertise in private international law. This United Nations summit “WSIS” was created to help integrate the “multi-stakeholder platform aimed at addressing the issues raised by information and communication technologies through a structured and inclusive approach at the national, regional and international levels” The organization expands on the purpose of the forum by describing their ideal society where people are free to create, access, utilize, and share information. This is an admirable ideal for which to work, but in today’s global society, this information they discuss is some form of intellectual property. At some point the organization may be so successful that information can flow as freely in as many directions as possible, but now the generation or examination of this information is governed by patent laws, the use of the information is governed by contract laws, the security of the information is governed by the laws of search and seizure, and the logo for the conference itself is protected by copyright laws. An organization that seeks to ease the legal bindings around information in a multi-stakeholder, international group simply has to consider several dimensions of private international law. This group literally cannot fully succeed without some significant progress made towards SDG 16 and towards the lowering of the information barrier that prevents the producers and users and seekers of this information society from safely engaging in it. People around the world cannot use this information in a legal way without understand what is and is not legal.