ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development

Information and communications technology (ICTs) is a broad umbrella term focused on technology including radios, computers, phones, hardware, software etc. ICT’s play an integral role in the movement toward inclusive sustainable development, specifically in tackling the grand challenge of the “digital divide.” ICTs allow for increased accessibility, as well as inclusivity. They are crosscutting and play highly beneficial roles in a multitude of grand challenges, specifically disaster risk management and education, in addition to the digital-divide.

The “Maitland Commission Report” by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) played an integral role in the discovery of the “digital divide.” The report, otherwise known as “the Missing Link,” highlighted the disparity between developed and developing nations in regards to telephone access. The report made an important connection among the availability of telecommunication infrastructure and economic growth, and aimed to fix this disparity among nations. “The Maitland Commission Report” was the first that advocated for the importance of universal and equal access to information and communications technology. The movement toward achieving universal access of ICT’s was continued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in a report entitled “Falling through the Net,” The NTIA discovered a significant digital divide among the “haves” and the “have nots” in the United States, in regards to Internet accessibility.

Both the “Maitland Commission Report” and “Falling through the Net” set the stage for the introduction of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The Summit was held in two phases; phase one took place in Geneva and phase two took place in Tunis. Both focused on the effectiveness of ICTs as a means to achieve development. Specifically, the WSIS+10 document highlights the importance of multistakeholder partnerships in the effort toward bridging the ICT gap.

As mentioned earlier, ICT’s play an integral role in the “digital divide.” Although it is hard to imagine our world without the Internet, this imagination is a reality for a large portion of the world. This imagination is even a reality for a considerable portion of the United States. Providing equal and universal access to ICT’s bridges the digital divide. However, this is an increasingly challenging task. As mentioned in WSIS+10, in order to move toward bridging the ICT gap, a multistakeholder approach is necessary. However, providing equal and universal access to ICTs within an inclusive sustainable development context, will be very challenging.