ICTs and Multistakeholderism

The Internet is increasingly becoming the leading communication and information tool around the world, especially with younger generations. It seems that more and more of my own personal interactions include the line, “Do you have a Facebook?”. Beyond personal interactions, my studies and the studies of my friends all seem to begin with “Googling” the topic at hand. With more and more people, of all ages and backgrounds, depending on the Internet as their primary way to stay connected and informed, it is important that the global community recognizes it as such.

In 2003, the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in response to the growing use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Between the first phase and the second phase (in 2005), the concept of Internet governance emerged, which would lead to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Both WSIS and IGF took or have taken (respectively) multistakeholder approaches. Considering that the Internet is a global tool with no real owner and no real global barriers to participation, it is important that multistakeholdersim methods are involved in decisions and discussions regarding the Internet. To clarify, multistakeholderism is basically an approach that involves any or all– if even possible– relevant stakeholders with various backgrounds so as to yield the most inclusive plans possible.

As noted in other blog topics, the inclusion of multiple stakeholders is a great step for international agenda making but remains to be limited due to disproportionate resources between countries, organizations, and stakeholder groups. However, ICTs represent the potential to reduce these differences and barriers to partaking by providing tools that facilitate participation by reducing costs (i.e. travel), reducing physical barriers (for PWDs that may not be able to access the event because of sites with poor design), addressing time differences (by using recordings to allow people in different time zones or with different schedules to see what they missed), and through other means. Some of these tools were seen in action at the recent Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, where live streaming, recorded sessions, and social media where just some of the various ways the UN tried and mostly succeeded in expanding participation and involvement in the conference.

It is exciting to be in the field of development at this time where ICTs are increasingly advancing and becoming available to more and more segments of the global population, while, concurrently, international decision-making processes are becoming more and more diverse. The recent uses of ICTs to increase participation and expand development processes to previously excluded groups is an exciting step in the right direction towards inclusive and successful development practices.