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.

ICTs play a pretty big role in sustainable development because access and use of those resources is something that so-called developed nations have a high percentage of. The ICT Development Index, created by the International Telecommunications Union, ranks countries based on amount of availability and use–and those in top spots are all very developed nations. ICTs are also mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Sustainable Development Framework. ICTs play a large role in SDGs 4, 7, 9. and 11, but their importance for all of the goals should be noted as well. For SDG 4, “Inclusive Education”, ICTs are incredibly important as becoming technologically literate becomes such an important skill; all classrooms should be equipped with technology that enhances students’ learning. SDG 9, “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,” targets innovation for economic growth and one of its main goals is to bridge the digital divide of the 4 billion people without sustained access to internet. In the 2030 Sustainable Development Framework a quote about ICTs stands out: “the spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress,” this quote truly sums up the importance of ICTs to sustainable development.

WSIS, The World Summit on the Information Society, is the largest gathering of the ICTs for development community. The forum provides a platform for many different stakeholders to share ideas and meet with each other regarding moving forward and how the community can progress. This year, WSIS+10 was held in Geneva, Switzerland and the outcome document released highlighted the different sessions and meetings that happened over the 4 days.

Closing the digital divide is incredibly important as the world keeps becoming more and more dependent on ICTs and technology. Having access to information is becoming a human right, and lack of access and availability are hurdles the SDGs need to address before the information gap becomes even larger. There are several organizations dedicated to doing this, an interesting one I found was CyberSmart Africa which has brought electricity and laptops to some of the most rural schools in sub-saharan Africa.