In class we discussed Information Communication Technology (ICTs) and Inclusive Sustainable Development. ICTs play a major role in Inclusive Development, but for this post I will be discussing the role that ICTs play in sustainable development, how ICTs are integrated into the SDGs and finally what the ‘digital divide’ is and how it ties into sustainable development.
ICTs are quickly becoming integral in inclusive sustainable development because ICTs can bridge gaps that were once thought to be impossible to close. For example the UN Internet Governance Forum and GigaNet is approaching, and ICTs allow people from all over the globe to attend and participate. This is due to new technologies such as web conferencing tools and robots that allow for the free movement of virtual participants. This is important for inclusive sustainable development because now new voices that previously would not be heard can have a prominent seat at a table that drafts important policies and laws. Another breakthrough ICT that is often referenced in the context of sustainable development is mobile money. This works by allowing the quick exchange of money via cell phones (they do not even have to be smart phones). This type of technology has changed the face of microfinance institutions. For the microfinance organization that I worked out in Kenya, they transferred the money via Mpesa, and this was sustainable because nearly every family had one cell phone, and any cell phone in Kenya can receive MPesa. Being able to give microcredit’s to people living in remote areas via a cell phone is just one of the ways ICTs work towards inclusive sustainable development.
ICTs are heavily integrated in the SDGs because they are a great tool for countries to use in order to achieve some of the goals. For example, in SDG number 4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” ICTs play an important role in inclusive education because they work to give equitable opportunities for all children. In fact UNESCO works to share knowledge about the many ways technology can facilitate universal access to education, bridge learning divides, support the development of teachers, enhance the quality and relevance of learning, strengthen inclusion, and improve education administration and governance. ICTs such as software that translates to text what the teacher says in real-time, which means that students who are hearing impaired can participate in class and get everything, the teacher says (things such as personal stories or tangents that contain new and exciting information).
The digital divide is “the divide between those with access to new technologies and those without access to new technologies.” William M. Daley wrote a comprehensive report in 1999 that examined the access to telephones in America. This report found, “Overall, we have found that the number of Americans connected to the nation’s information infrastructure is soaring. Nevertheless, this year’s report finds that a digital divide still exists, and, in many cases, is actually widening over time. Minorities, low-income persons, the less educated, and children of single-parent households, particularly when they reside in rural areas or central cities, are among the groups that lack access to information resources.” While this report was focused only in America and in 1999, the idea is more relevant today than ever before. In the context of international sustainable development people without access to these new technologies are victims of the digital divide and it is a major problem.