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.

As Amartya Sen emphasized, development is inherently about freedom. ICTs allow people the freedom to make choices regarding education, business opportunities, entrepreneurship, travel, communication, and more. Without the ability to communicate with others outside of a small region, people can find themselves isolated with no support system. ICTs provide the resources needed to deal with emergency situations, or merely stay in contact with the globalized world.

The Maitland Report, also known as “The Missing Link,” came out in 1984 from the International Telecommunications Union. This report discussed the expansion of telecommunications around the world. In a report from the US Department of Commerce in 1995, “Falling Through the Net,” the United States government emphasizes the importance for people to have access to telephonic and internet services. They stated that economic and social well-being depends on this access, and this is even more true today. People use ICTs to connect with friends, family, and colleagues all over the world. The internet allows for networking between someone in Australia and someone in Nicaragua. Without this type of access, people do not have the same opportunities for social and professional growth.

According to the ITU’s 2017 report, in 2017, less than half of households worldwide had a computer, and just over half had internet access. In developed countries, 84.4% of households had access to the internet, compared to 42% in developing countries. It is clear that there is a lot of work to be done in order to expand the availability of ICTs worldwide, especially in rural areas and developing countries. ICTs are integral to freedom and integral to development, and supporting access to communicative technologies will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.