ICTs and the Digital Divide

We live in an increasingly digital world. Access to technology allows people to apply for online jobs, keep up with current news, research information, connect with others, and participate in online classes. However, unequal access to information communication technologies (ICTs) has become one of the greatest economic and civil rights issues around the world (Irving). Unequal access to ICTs puts people behind the starting line in our increasingly digitally dependant world. While people with access to ICTs have a much greater advantage in advancing their education and career positions, people without access to ICTs face many more obstacles in accessing those same exact opportunities. Many job applications, college applications, or scholarship applications can only be found online.

For example, a friend of mine works at an organization that provides opportunities for high school students abroad to do an exchange in the United States. There was one student, Leonardo, who was almost unable to apply for the opportunity because he did not have a digital device or Internet access at home. Each day that he was working on the application, Leonardo had to travel 45 minutes to a university library in his town to access a computer. The day that he was planning on submitting the application, the university library was closed. Although Leonardo had missed the deadline, the organization luckily granted him an extension because he was not able to easily access the technology he needed to apply. Leonardo was selected as one of only 13 finalists in a pool of 280 total applicants. He just completed his exchange in the United States yesterday, but was almost not able to attend due to his inability to easily access the necessary technology to apply.

The term to describe the inequality between populations with and without access to ICTs is called the “digital divide” (Irving). The digital divide disproportionately affects minorities, low-income persons, persons with less education, and populations in rural areas – and the gap is widening quickly (Irving). For example, persons with a college degree are eight times more likely to have a computer at home and sixteen times more likely to have Internet access than persons with an elementary school education (Irving). A low-income White family is three times more likely to have Internet access than a comparable low-income Black family, and four times more likely than a comparable low-income Hispanic family (Irving). A high-income family in an urban area is over twenty times more likely to have Internet access than a low-income family in a rural area (Irving).

At the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the International Telecommunication Union Union (ITU) connected the WSIS Action Lines with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goal was to harness the potential of ICTs to achieve the SDGs (WSIS-SDG Matrix). For example, SDG 1 is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and WSIS Action Line 1 is “the role of governments and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development” (WSIS-SDG Matrix). One of the resulting rationales is “Increased Internet use can reduce poverty and create jobs through increased efficiency and transparency in government, the growing number of broadband connections and household Internet penetration” (WSIS-SDG Matrix). Equal access to ICTs is absolutely crucial in promoting equality in our increasingly digitally dependent world. We must work to break down the ever-increasing “digital divide” that disproportionately places many behind the starting line.

Resources:

https://www.ntia.doc.gov/legacy/ntiahome/fttn99/contents.html

https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/sdg/Content/Documents/wsis-sdg_matrix_document.pdf

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ICTs and Sustainable Development

Information Communication Technologies, or ICTs, refer to communication technologies like the telephone, the internet, cell phones, other wireless networks, and more. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize the integration of ICTs in development, especially in SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). Not only do ICTS help the environment by reducing the need to travel over long distances or use paper, they also significantly contribute to development. Continue reading

ICTs and SDGs!

ICTs, information and communication technologies, are considered integral to accelerate progress of all the UN’s SDGs, particularly on SDG goal #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. [1] Each Facebook check, riding the Metrobus around DC and checking blackboard demonstrate the importance of ICTs in our modern life in a digitized age. ICTs allow for easy connection cross-cultures, cross borders and have created an ability to easily share and receive information for everyone with access. ICTs have allowed for improvements in banking, education, health and allow individuals freedom to be informed, make decisions and having access allows for greater equality amongst persons, particularly disabilities [2].

 

ICTs are technologies that focus on intercommunication between parties by combining elements of audio-visual technology with information. They allow for the creation of global and national networks and providing a space for discussion and by providing equal access to all to ICTs allows for equalization for persons with disabilities. ICTs provide an opportunity to make various aspects of life more efficient and connected to the individual, regardless of ability. With an internet connection and ability to access ICTs, numerous barriers are reduced from a population of persons that are otherwise disenfranchised. This is particularly true for persons with disabilities. However, ICTs are not provided equally worldwide, with a majority of research determining that the distribution of ICTs can be found predominantly in the developed world. From telephones in 1984 where The Missing Link highlighted that 75% of telephones were found in developed countries, making persons in less developed countries more vulnerable than people in developed countries, to access to internet in 2018, it is clear that the developed world has an advantage in access to ICTs. In June of 2018, a report found that just 55.5% of the world’s population has access to the internet, with the majority of users being located in the developed world [3]. Furthermore, the graph below from the Pew Research Center in 2015 depicts clearly the relationship between per capita income by country and internet access. This clearly shows the unequal access of ICTs to developing countries [4].

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Lack of access to ICTs, whether it be internet, telephones or other forms of communication technologies, severely disenfranchises persons without the technology and limits how individuals’ freedom of communication. The disparities that persons with disabilities face when they have a lack of access to ICTs is especially amplified as they may face restrictions in mobility, sight, hearing etc that ICTs may assist with. Furthermore, persons with disabilities are often left out of conversations and research around ICTs.

 

This being said, increased technology also has negative effects. The internet, and other ICTs, while they have incredible ability to create good and promote, can also be used to spread hate and destruction, almost unregulated. Facebook is a prime example of how ICTs can be used to spread hate and is important to recognize in my research. When it comes to “awareness raising”, it is important to recognize that awareness raising must not only promote awareness but acceptance. Promoting awareness of an issue is not directly linked to having acceptance and social media and ICTs often distinctly demonstrates this. Currently, the genocide in Myanmar can be directly tied to Facebook and parallels how the Rwandan genocide was amplified and encouraged through the radio [5]. This shows how awareness must be promoted through ICTs, not simply through government campaigns, by supporting persons with disabilities through modes of technology and communication, it can provide a method of acceptance on a social level.

Inclusive Education!

Today, 65 million primary school-age children are not in school and almost half of them are children with disabilities (World Bank). The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals have mentions of people with disabilities and Goal 4, Quality Education, is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Inclusive is a key word in this goal because it is acknowledging students with disabilities and ensuring that they receive a quality education as well.  Continue reading

Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (and robots)

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), as defined by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, “Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention” (UNISDR). Because disasters are often unforeseen and are due to natural phenomenon, being prepared for their effects is extremely important and affects everyone. Disaster Risk Management (DRM) is basically the implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction. For example, Disaster Risk Reduction aims to reduce the damage caused by a hurricane and Disaster Risk Management is the implementation of a preparedness program. Continue reading

ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development

Whether for better or for worse, we have entered into a global, digitized age where access to the internet and technology are essential for everyday life.  From education to healthcare and even transportation, the use of technology and the need to be connected at all times is paramount. In terms of the path to development, technology and the internet play a pivotal role, supplementing where resources are lacking, providing global and national networks for communication, and offering innovative solutions to the world’s complex problems.  Yet, reports like the Maitland Report and Falling Through the Net have demonstrated that the distribution of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is highly concentrated in the “developed world.” According to the Maitland Report, published in 1984, 75% of the telephones in the world were located in just 9 countries. While this is obviously an outdated number, one could imagine that the disparity has only grown.  Lack of access to a telephone not only limits to who and how individuals can communicate, but it also denies individuals the freedom of security/safety. Particularly in the age of the smartphone, complex mapping applications, safety and monitoring applications, and the simple comfort of being able to call emergency services is denied. Additionally, these facts are augmented for persons with disabilities who may also be facing constraints such as limited mobility, impaired sight or vision, etc.  Moreover, information sharing and the creation of social networks is stunted, stopping the flow of information sharing and socialization. Continue reading

Inclusive Education

I was particularly excited for the class on inclusive education, as inclusive education has been the focus of much of my research since beginning my academic career.  Access to quality, meaningful education is still an issue for many persons with disabilities, whether a result of accessibility issues, a lack of educational resources, or otherwise.  Often, scholars and experts in the field have maintained the power of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to help supplement where resources and educational access are scarce.  For persons with disabilities, the idea is that ICTs allow a more personalized learning experience and can be used as a tool to learn both inside and outside of the classroom. In fact, Sustainable Development Goal 4 identifies ICT access and skills as a major indicator for progress in inclusive education. Continue reading