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].


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.