ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development

Can you imagine living in a world without access to a telephone or the internet? Neither can I.  We live in a completely interconnected, globalized world where communication across boundaries is a key aspect of development.  However, not everyone has equal access to the tools needed to allow this communication to happen.  Reports such as The International Telecommunication Union’s, “The Missing Link”and the NTIA’s “Falling through the Net” shed light on this issue of limited ICT availability in rural and poor communities. 

There is an interesting correlation between ICTs and development.  The ICT Development Index ranks and compares the level of ICT use and access across the various counties in the world.  In 2017, the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) released the latest rankings of the Index, with Iceland in the top spot, followed by South Korea.  The top-ranking countries include most high-income countries that are considered more developed than their more rural counterparts.  In developing countries, ICT development is constrained by limited capabilities and because the infrastructure is often not in place, a point discussed in length in the 1985 Missing Link Report.

While the ICTs are at the center of importance in SDGs 4,7,9, and 11, they could benefit all the SDGs.  Without the technology granted by ICTs, developing countries are left out of the global conversations surrounding the trans-boundary market and education.  By the 1990s, there was a large push to get ICTs into schools within sub-Saharan Africa.  The goal was to familiarize both students and teachers with having computers in the classroom.  By 2015, the One Laptop Per Childprogram had distributed approximately 2.4 million laptops to around 2 million students and teachers. The important of inclusive ICTs in classrooms around the world is paramount and the infrastructure must be built to ensure this possibility around the world.

ICTs have yet to penetrate the most remote areas of some countries, including the United States.  In my personal experience, telephone lines, internet access, cell data, along with other forms of electronic transmission of data are unavailable in the rural, mountainous region of Southwestern Virginia where I conducted research last year. Once I drove up the mountain, and lost cell service, I felt completely disconnected from others.  Not to mention the feeling of unease knowing that if I were to get into a wreck or any sort of trouble, I could not call for help.  ICTs are truly a lifeline that can benefit every aspect of one’s life.

ICTs are also tools for enabling social movements and promoting societal change.  ICTs can be used to gain grassroots support for a cause due to the internet’s ability to spread information rapidly.  In today’s highly globalized world, ICTs are an integral part of both communication and knowledge attainment and must be accessible to all regardless of location.