Addressing the Digital Divide(s)

ICTs are incredibly important because they factor into every facet of development. Without ICTs and technology, it is very difficult to make advancements and develop. In 1984 the Independent Commission for World Wide Communications Development published an important report known as the Maitland Commission Report or the Missing Link. The report found that ICTs were incredibly important in all aspects of life and development but there was a huge disparity in which countries had access to them. The report found that developed countries were far more likely to have access to ICTs than developing countries and that this difference contributed to differences in development. This disparity became known as a digital divide, which are still present in 2017.

In 1999 another report came out called Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide. This report also examined ICTs and their connection to development, with focus on the internet. Similarly to The Missing Link, Falling Through the Net found that their was a large disparity between developed and developing countries in internet access. The same countries that did not have very much access to telecommunication in 1984 were the same countries who did not have much internet access in 1999. The lack of ICTs for developing countries becomes a sort of Catch-22 because countries cannot develop without ICTs but developed countries have the most access to ICTs. The access that developed countries have to ICTs allows them to pursue sustainable development and stay competitive, while developing countries are left behind.

The UN acknowledges the important role that ICTs play in development and therefore has held many conferences and forums to try and help close the digital divides. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was convened in 2003 and 2005 with the purpose of sharing information that would help close the digital divide. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was created at the first WSIS in order for countries to share best practices and work together to better internet governance. These attempts to bridge the digital divide are important because for all countries to be able to participate in the SDGs, they must all have equal access to ICTs. IN 2017, there is an even greater focus on technology than there was when the Missing Link and Falling Through the Net were published. Almost every development initiative requires access to ICTs in some way. In order for developing countries to successfully develop, they must have access to ICTs and WSIS and the IGF will help with that access.