LIVE! from the UN Internet Governance Forum and GigaNet

The 13th Internet Governance Forum, an annual event for global leaders in internet governance to discuss policies and exchange information about the internet and new technology, was held in Paris, France on November 12-14th. Some of the major themes discussed were Cybersecurity, Trust & Privacy, Development, Innovation & Economic Issues, Digital Inclusion & Accessibility, Emerging Technologies, Evolution of Internet Governance, Human Rights, Gender & Youth, Media & Content, and Technical & Operational Topics. Because of my interest in working with youth, I was most interested in the sessions around youth and the internet. Continue reading

Opportunities and Limitations in Global Strategic Frameworks

Global Strategic Frameworks like the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals are important pieces in the puzzle of development because they are good for marketing ideas internationally and setting a standard for where the world should head, but it is essential that we examine their limitations for inclusive development. Continue reading

Multistakeholder Internet Governance and Sustainable Development

Internet Governance is defined as “the development of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and activities that shape the evolution and use of the Internet” (UNESCO). As the internet has grown and become such an integral part of the human experience globally, it is no surprise that it requires governance. Continue reading

ICTs and ISD–Digital Divide

ICTs, or Information and Communications Technologies, are technologies that offer access to information through communication. The term refers to both the physical hardware and the cyber infrastructure that people use to send and receive information and communicate with. Because these are so essential to everyday life now in the 21st century, reports such as “The Missing Link” by the International Telecommunications Union and “Falling Through the Net” by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency highlight the disparities in access to ICTs. Continue reading

International Development Theory

I have studied many different development theories over my time as a developmental studies SIS major at American University. There has been on that has stood out to me from the beginning as the one that will do the most good for the most people. Development as Freedom by Amarta Sen is the most human based yet practical development theory I have read throughout college. So many other theories worry about the global dynamics and international politics whereas Development as Freedoms sole focus is how to provide the individual no matter where in the world with the freedom and the options to chose their own path. Sen makes no assumptions about the person or tries to make them conform to a certain path or way of development. Whatever a person can chose the path they want to take without their basic rights being taken away or hinder that is a truly developed society. I feel as if many development actors do not focus on this theory today. They are much more concerned about the immediate results and impact that, that sometimes the humanity of the exchange gets lost in it all.

The UN and UN frameworks or conventions are a great way at guiding stakeholders in developmental goals. There is limited opportunities to get stakeholders other than government involved. This is something that needs to be improved. Although the governments are the ones who provide the monetary assistance, the NGO’s are generally the movers and shakers who provide the on ground technical support. More importantly they are the ones who interact with the communities at a much more personal level. They are the people who would be able to most effectively and accurately advocate for populations who cannot advocate for themselves. That is why grassroots NGOS and other stakeholders such as the communities themselves need to be given many more opportunities to actively participate in major discussions on how their communities are going to be developed.

Global Grand Challenges of International Sustainable Development

The idea of global grand challenges and the vast number of them that exist in todays world can be daunting and discouraging. A global grand challenge is a technical complex societal problem without a solution.  It effects multiple communities around the world and needs global cooperation. It is important that the multiple actors involved in solving these global grand challenges are as inclusive as possible. When a large problem spans across a diverse amount of people it is difficult for one governing entity to take responsibility for solving it. I think that it is crucial for states to donate money to research and innovation for solving these big problems that face most of the world today.

Where one can fall short when thinking about these global grand challenges  is the idea is one size fits all. Development as a whole is not a one size fits all type of sector. Each challenge, community and project is so unique that it is difficult to duplicate the same exact thing everywhere. Even just in the same immediate community there are people who experience the grand global challenges different from their neighbor. The way that something like the Millennial Development Goals will not be the same as for a person with a disability.

There are so many grand challenges and all of them are important that it is hard to pick one that stands above the rest. I would have to pick climate change  as the most important grand global challenge. Climate change is a challenge that if not addressed, the entire world population a few generations from now will feel the effects.

Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

The term intersectional has become quite a buzzword in the development community. It is used often by humanitarians, organizations and to describe projects. When a word becomes so prominent in a community, at times it can lose its original meaning or purpose. Intersectionality originated in academic communities as a way to explain the dual discrimination that African American women faced in the United States.  That being said, intersectionality in sustainable development is very important framework to consider and can benefit many if understood correctly by development actors. Development agencies or workers can best assist communities by understanding the complexities and intersectionalities that each community or person in that community faces. Many different factors in a person’s life such as gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class  and more all combine to determine how that individual experiences oppression or discrimination.

I read a quote from Kimberle Crenshaw, an African American lawyer who coined the term intersectionality, that I thought  important for development stakeholders to consider. She said, “If efforts began with addressing the needs and problems of those who are the most disadvantaged, and with restructuring and making the world more necessary, then others who are singularly disadvantaged would also benefit.” When development actors listen to the most marginalized communities they are able to build from the ground up and make sure that development is inclusive for the entire population. Implementing projects with intersectionality in mind also allows for sustainability and long-term effectiveness. When look at the intersectional discrimination a population faces the project is more likely to identify the root cause of the problem and solve it more efficiently. This does not waste as much donor funding by only looking into one issue and jus putting a Band-Aid on the larger problem at hand.

In my capstone project intersectionality is important to think about. The students who I am researching are some of the most marginalized in the Haitian community. Girls have a harder time accessing school in the country, but it becomes nearly impossible when they have a low socio-economic status and also have a disability. These intersectionalities need to inform the government and schools when designing programing for students such as the one described above in Haiti and all over the world.

Live from the UN Internet Governance Forum and GigaNet

The thirteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF), hosted by the Government of France, took place at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris between November 12-14, 2018. The purpose of the IGF is to “bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet” ( The topic of Internet governance was one of the most important and controversial issues at WSIS and the WSIS+10 review, especially in light of the creation of the SDGs in 2015 ( In an effort to promote an inclusive and responsive approach to Internet governance, WSIS “mandated the Secretary-General of the United Nations to convene IGF for multistakeholder policy dialogue” ( IGF is important because of its unique “ability to facilitate discourse between governments, intergovernmental organizations, private companies, the technical and civil society organizations that deal with or are interested in Internet Governance related public policy issues” (

With that being said, the key issues at the 13th IGF included: cybersecurity, trust & privacy; development, innovation & economic issues; digital inclusion & accessibility, emerging technologies; evolution of internet governance; human rights, gender & youth; media & content; and technical & operational topics ( In regards to the key issues, participants examine proposed responses, “including regulatory frameworks, potential risks, global trends, as well as best and worst practices that have been adopted or are currently under decision” ( In addition, participants at IGF discuss “the impact of treaties, recommendations and other documents adopted in various international venues within the Internet governance ecosystem” (

The session of this year’s IGF that I tuned into was on the second day of the forum, titled, “DC Schools on Internet Governance: Schools on Internet Governance.” The session began with introductions of the various stakeholders present, and continued with a discussion of a website developed over the last year that was based on proposals for “a dynamic coalition on schools and Internet governance.” The purpose of the dynamic coalition is to create a space and network not only for schools on Internet governance to exchange ideas for best practices, but also to provide guidance for emerging schools. The majority of the meeting was dedicated to developing the website, which can be found at:

It is important for forums like IGF to take place, as they provide a space not only for different organizations around the world to discuss key issues, but also to create and develop innovative new ideas.


Global Grand Challenges

A Global Grand Challenge. At first, this phrase seems as if it is proposing a daunting task. The words themselves emphasize the utter importance of a challenge or issue that has been posed by the international community. Yet, global grand challenges are key to inclusive sustainable development that strive to make the world a better place for all people. As discussed in class, a grand challenge is a large-scale, multi-dimensional challenge that the global community faces and attempts to solve through collaborative research and technology. Technology plays a large role in global grand challenges because it is viewed as an innovative tool that has the potential to solve some of the world’s greatest issues. Some of the grand challenges the global community faces range from creating new jobs and eliminating hunger to improving health care and developing new ways of teaching and learning. These global grand challenges of development focus primarily on “moon shot” ideas, or enthusiastic yet attainable goals that were derived from the Apollo missions to the moon in 1969. Similarly, Branscomb and Kalil’s research explicates that governments aim to focus societal attention on pressing challenges that are linked to well-defined societal goals that are ambitious, yet achievable.

The Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals are considered two grand challenges that were brought forth to the international community. The MDGs, as we have discussed, were created to tackle the global issues of poverty. Essentially, the MDGs posed a grand challenge to the development community to push everyone towards eradicating poverty universally. However, the MDGs were critiqued on their lack of context, lack of equitable approach to timeline, and lack of inclusivity, which ultimately affected their impact. Despite this, the SDGs were created in 2015 to pose yet another global grand challenge that attempted to respond to the critiques of the MDGs in order to become more inclusive. The SDGs expanded into 17 goals and allowed countries to customize these goals to each of their own contexts. It also integrated the non-profit and non-governmental sector into the conversations, which brought new expertise and engagement to the table. Ultimately, the SDGs used the momentum of the MDGs to engage the international community in conversation and action for inclusive sustainable development.

Theoretical and Conceptual Approaches to Development

Within the field of international development, there are many different approaches to the definition of development and how to best approach it. Nobel Prize winner and famous development scholar Amartya Sen defines development as “a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy” (Sen 3). Sen looks at development through the lens of freedom, first by defining the concept of “unfreedoms” in the context of poverty and tyrannical societies. Sources of “unfreedom” include poor economic opportunities, systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities, and and intolerance of repressive states (Sen 3). He reasons that the removal of “unfreedoms” will move society towards development and freedom, as a more developed society will provide its citizens with a greater amount of freedom.

By Sen’s definition of development, countries and regions are currently not equally developed because there is an inequality in the freedoms that people around the world are able to enjoy. Sen would argue that countries and regions will be equally developed when all citizens are able to enjoy the same freedoms. He believes that development can be accelerated by promoting institutions that work to remove unfreedoms from society. Sen outlines a set of five institutions that promote the advancement of freedoms: political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security (Sen 10). Examples of these institutions could include health care or educational facilities, institutions that promote local peace and order, and markets and market-related organizations (Sen 8-9).

Sumner and Tribe focus on three different definitions of development. The definitions include development “as a long-term process of structural and societal transformation,” development “as a short-to-medium term outcome of desirable targets,” and development “as a dominant discourse of western modernity” (Sumner and Tribe 11). All three of the definitions that Sumner and Tribe have merit. Development is a long-term societal process because in several different ways, it seeks to improve the structural inequalities that exist within a society. Development is also a short-to-medium term process with specific targets, because without including achievable targets, the process of development as a whole would be difficult to achieve. In addition, development has historically been a discourse of western modernity, which is very important to be cognisant of in the area of international development.

While the term “meta-narratives” refers to grand theory, the term “micro-narratives” refers to context-specific theory, and both can be a guiding force in development studies research (Sumner and Tribe 81). Different theories of development provide a “better overall understanding of development” and serve as a base for research (Sumner and Tribe 82). It is important that research on international development continues, especially as the concept of development progresses, so that the world can have a better understanding of what it means to provide equality and freedom for all people.


Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen, Introduction, Chapters 1-5

International Development Studies, Sumner and Tribe, Chapters 1-4