ICTs and Sustainable Development

ICTs play such a critical role globally that economies, human health and safety, and social welfare are tied to them inseparably. Conversely, lacking access to ICTs can jeopardize the quality of issues that are tied to, isolating and confining individuals to limited options. While the innovations in technology have made ICTs more adaptable to different environments and have a diverse enough number of operators that their reach has spread even to sparsely populated and rural areas, there are still swaths of people in developed and developing countries alike that don’t have sufficient access to ICTs. This is a hindrance to development because denying access to telecommunications and the Internet by association, denies an individual the ability to expand their knowledge base by interacting with individuals and their knowledge on a globalized level.

This issue of access is one that was more widespread at the time of the Missing Link report than it is contemporarily. One aspect of the report that stood out was its focus on addressing the private sector to expand the accessibility of their ICT network. This is an interesting approach, given that the report came out of the International Telecommunication Union under the UN. Especially at the time, multistakeholder involvement was not as well-developed as it is now, so for the report to address the private sector before addressing the states indicates an early recognition of how multi-level the topic of ICTs is. This was also a logical move because the report was targeting the monopolies on ICTs that were directly responsible for limiting access to highly-populated, dense urban areas.

Access to ICTs is an issue that persists today, but the barriers to access are more complex than breaking up monopolies. ICTs have a recognized role in enhancing sustainable development, but, I would argue that, in order for ICT access to be pushed even further, a focus on its application to human health and safety needs to be emphasized. ICTs have played an integral role during and after natural disasters in identifying those with the most time-sensitive needs as well as being a platform for donations, supply delivery, and safe-space identification. This application of ICTs is one that can be directly tied to human rights (though I would also argue that it isn’t the only application that applies to human rights) and other global commitments to addressing human health; it needs to be emphasized in order to advance the expansion of access to ICTs.