Bridging the digital divide

As we look to a future where more and more people will be living in urban centers that need to be denser and more efficient, it is easy to forget about those that are currently living in rural areas that are falling behind development-wise. We can easily become distracted by the shiny new buildings and technology in cities while pushing the needs of those on the outside of cities to the background. In order to ensure that all people have equal access to and usage of information and opportunities, we must extend ICTs to those that have been left out of the rapid adoption of new technologies. These so-called “have-nots,” including persons with disabilities, are at risk of falling through the cracks and being more at risk of poverty, under-education, and unemployment, among others.

Development-wise, this means extending internet access and high-speed broadband networks to areas far outside urban centers and in places where access has been limited in the past. It means creating community spaces such as public libraries and recreation centers that provide open use to computers and online resources. This also involves extending efficient, affordable public transit to suburban and rural areas so that even those who do not live in cities have access to them and all the opportunities they provide.

For persons with disabilities, ICTs can mean the difference between having the choice to live the life they want or not being able to choose at all. ICTs give PWD the chance to have equal access to employment, education and recreation while also providing a range of options for participation in these activities. In short, ICTs are a vehicle that can be used to guarantee human rights for all people, but especially PWD.

As our lives become more and more integrated with ICTs, we have to make sure that all people have access to this changing world so that no one is left behind.

Click to access 362828V2E.pdf

The Digital Age: Inclusivity and Sustainability


As the world continues its journey into the abyss of the digital age, there is an increasing need to make technology accessible around the world. Technology brings such a wide variety of benefits and risks. While it can increase productivity and global understanding, it can also lead to exploitation and risk of privacy breaches. Nevertheless, many believe that information and communication technologies or ICTs are the key to achieve sustainable global development.

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The Importance of ICTs

Our class discussions picked up with Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) with Inclusive Sustainable Development, noting the digital divide in an increasingly globalized society that has seen the growth and importance of ICTs. A common theme I noticed throughout the readings was the increasing disparity between groups who have access to technology (phones, computers, etc.) versus those who do not, or in other terms, the “have” and “have nots” (Brown). For example, in Falling Through the Net, I learned how the core of US telecommunications policy is to provide universal service where all Americans should have access to affordable telephone service (Brown). Unfortunately, the survey discovered that there a disproportionate amount of “have nots” found in the US’s rural areas and central cities. In terms of race, Native Americans in rural areas possess the fewest telephones (Brown). In terms of age, the youngest householder and rural seniors have the lowest number. Continue reading

Inclusive Classrooms

Education is the first space in which discrimination can occur. Regardless of whether it is because of race, gender, or disability individuals can be subjected to exclusion and fall behind. Amartya Sen notes education as a key as to development and therefore the freedom to choose. Those who lack education are unfortunately penalized in the global economy and this disproportionately affects minorities more than any other group. It should be noted that currently there are 745 million adults worldwide who are illiterate and 114 million young people lack these basic skills as well.

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How applicable are global frameworks to local issues?

After my presentation yesterday, I did a lot of thinking about how international frameworks are difficult to apply to local, municipal issues. These frameworks are usually broad and have no enforcement mechanisms. They are basically suggestions to countries and national governments for what they should or shouldn’t do.

Local governance is much different. Policies are specific, applied to certain segments of society, industry and the economy. They vary based on where they are located and what the people they affect need. International frameworks have little to no use in these cases because they are so non-specific and are not created to be used in a local context.

Although both of these governance levels are very different and are difficult to fit together, they do interact with each other in positive ways. Especially in regards to ensuring that PWD have their rights protected and advocated for, international conventions and agreements can serve as important starting points for the development of local policies. For example, the CRPD includes a comprehensive vision of governance, at any level, that provides for an anticipates the needs of PWD in a diverse range of settings that can be applied to different regions and governance structures.

So how do we bring these two very different governance mechanisms together? How to we bring the grand challenges at the international level to the local stage? The UN notes that the role of municipal governments in regards to international frameworks is implementation and enforcement. This is a vital part of the realization of international conventions like the CRPD because the UN and other global governance institutions are unable to put their policies into practice in local settings. Local governments enforce global treaties into their structure through adding them to their constitutions, bill of rights, or some other law. Another important role of local governments in the application of international frameworks is the monitoring of their effectiveness and implementation.

While international frameworks are sometimes hard to pare down into tangible goals for municipal and local governments, they play a vital role in providing the baseline on which these governments should base their tailored policies and laws off of. International frameworks are also helpful in that they are flexible enough to serve as building blocks for a vast range of areas instead of being rigidly contained in a small area of specific rules that must be adhered to.

How can technology bridge inequalities in education?

 In the development field, it is well known that education is fundamental for development and economic growth. Education for All is Goal 4 from the Sustainable Development Goals. The World Bank’s Education Strategy encompasses these three ideas: “Invest Early, Invest Smartly, and Invest in Education for All” (WB). Learning for all promotes equity and makes it explicitly known that acquiring knowledge and skills should be available to everyone. There are still several barriers and challenges to access remain for girls, children with disabilities, and linguistic minorities from achieving the same level of education as other parts of the population. Despite progress, the gender gap in education still exists: according to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 16 million girls will never step into a classroom (UNESCO). An estimated 62 million are not in school, and 100 million will drop out before completing primary school (USAID). UNESCO studies also indicated that 1-2% of persons with disabilities in the Global South receive an education (UNESCO).

It would be impossible to meet the goal of education and sustainable development without considering these inequality issues. Within the context of globalization, the information society and knowledge economies have come to fruition. Its critical to have education particularly to participate in the sectors of industry, science, global policy formation, and civic advocacy.  How can technology contribute to inclusive education? 

The digital divide can be defined as the increasing gap between underprivileged members of society who do not have access to the internet and those who do (Stanford). ICT refers to technologies that broaden access to information and communication technology. As such, ICT can play a significant role in inclusive education through available learning objects for persons with disabilities. Distributed learning, through being able to learn on your own and having resources that you can use by yourself, is one avenue for increasing access to education through the use of technology. G3ICT, a global organization that was spun off of GAID, is very active working all over the world to increase inclusivity. They produce model policy for countries, by creating templates for how to include persons with disabilities.  WCAG, the current version 2.0, produced a set of guidelines for how to use electronic resources and make them more accessible like screen readers. Technological innovations like ICT can and should be utilized to make a more inclusive education system, pushing us further towards SDG 4: Education for All.,,contentMDK:22474207~menuPK:282402~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:282386,00.html

Urban climate resiliency for all

The Dhaka Declaration was completed in May, 2018, and with it, the term “Nothing About Us Without Us” was coined. This Declaration was the first of its kind in terms of being entirely focused on persons with disabilities and the role they play in disaster risk reduction and management. This term encompasses PWD feelings of being excluded from previous frameworks and conventions that directly impacted them. It also fits perfectly within the main goal of Dhaka which is, “recognizing the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all human beings, to experience non-discrimination, protection, full accessibility and effective participation in decision-making processes, equalization of opportunities, individual autonomy and independence of PWD.”

Click to access Dhaka-Declaration-2018.pdf

Dhaka emphasized the importance of linking disability-inclusive disaster risk management with the SGDs on the understanding that inclusion builds the resilience of whole societies, safeguards development gains, and minimizes disaster losses. Urban planning is a monumental part of this document, at all governance levels: local, national and global. SDG11 is particularly important here as it connects sustainable, accessible and resilient urban development.

The entire concept of a city space being more resilient when it includes all people rests on the idea that diverse communities are able to better weather the storms (pun intended) and crises that hit them. When a city is able to safely and equitably accommodate PWD, evacuation routes are effective for everyone, the physical environment is better suited to shelter and protect people, transportation routes are clearer, and public offices are open to new ideas and participation from all kinds of people. In short, Dhaka emphasizes a people-centered approach to disaster risk management and reduction on all levels; one that ensures the meaningful participation, inclusion and leadership of PWD.

In order to make all areas, but especially urban centers, more resilient in the face of increasing intense weather events due to climate change, diversity and inclusion needs to be the center focus of urban planners. Urban areas need to be multi-use and open to everyone to allow for the effective functioning of all types of businesses, social and cultural activities with the ability to bounce-back after crises.

The Risk of Improper Disaster Risk Planning

Our last aspect in exploring inclusive sustainable cities was disaster risk reduction and disaster management. This subject is important when considering cities because of their huge populations, so there needs to be precautionary plans to anticipate natural disasters or emergencies and to also have the resiliency and adaptation to recover from these situations and hopefully prevent them. Risk reduction refers to the practice of reducing disaster risks through efforts to analyze and reduce the causal factors of disasters. It involves a combination of hazard (frequency, magnitude, location), exposure (who is at risk), and vulnerability (susceptibility of an individual to be impacted by hazards). Risk management on the other hand is the application of disaster risk reduction policies and strategies that aim to prevent new disaster risks, reduce existing risks, manage residual risks, and strengthen the resilience and reduction of losses. There are three main categories risk management falls under: prospective, corrective, and compensatory. Inclusive disaster risk reduction and management takes all these steps further by making sure all people — those with disabilities, youth, elderly, etc. — are able to be prepared and included in plans. All aspects from first responders, to alerts, to evacuation need to be able to adapt and help with all people to ensure their safety. Continue reading