ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development

The term “ICT” refers to information and communications technology, a broad term that encompasses certain types of technology such as computers, phones, radios, but also intangible kinds of technology such as software, hardware, applications, and the like. ICTs are a major part of the SDGs and the overall global shift towards sustainable development due to the fact that they allow for increased accessibility to the global community. ICT are the crux of the solution in regards to inclusivity because it allows for easier access to the public forum and allows for people of all abilities to participate. Additionally, ICTs are integral in solving some of the largest grand challenges of our time, including that of the digital divide, which is the gulf found between those who already have access to the internet and to technologies that allow the internet, and those who are unable to access it. In addition to the digital divide, ICTs aid in the development of grand challenges such as disaster risk management and education and countless others.

The very first document to truly recognize the scope and reach of ICTs was the Maitland Report, drafted in 1984 in response to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference that occurred two years prior. This report staunchly recognized the ability of ICTs to fuel global economic growth across all nations and also recognized the discrepancies in access to technology. The report was referred to as “The Missing Link” because it highlighted and elaborated on access to technology such as telephones and the very different situations that were being experienced by both developing and developed countries. The very ideas that were found in this report were expanded upon in the future report named “Falling Through the Net” which focused on closing the gap between the rural and urban populations on multiple fronts, one being access to the internet. The combination of these two reports, the Maitland Commission Report, and the “Falling Through the Net” Report acted as trailblazers in the movement toward achieving universal access of ICTs.

A perfect example of the progress that these two reports have aided in is the country of Kenya which has been a global leader in this effort towards increased access to ICTs. A quintessential example of this is what they refer to as M-Pesa, a mobile banking service launched in 2007 in response to growing financial concerns around the globe such as a lack of trust in the banking systems, theft, complications with money wiring to rural areas, and many more. This service, with the use of ICTs, has allowed a gargantuan amount of people to have the ability to participate in the same economic and monetary processes as everybody else.