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.
The US survey’s conclusions also extends to an international scale with the digital divide as highlighted by the Maitland Commission Report, also called The Missing Link, published by the International Telecommunication Union in 1985 (ITU). The report wrote about the huge imbalance in telephone access between developed and developing countries and said that the gap was intolerable. To remedy this, they offered four main proposals with subsequent actions: 1) government and development assistance agencies investing more in telecommunications, 2) existing networks in developing countries becoming more effective, 3) have financing take account of scarcity of foreign exchange in developing countries, and 4) have the ITU play a more effective role (Maitland 64). A similar report from UNESCO on the New World Information and Communication Order, or NWICO, also addressed the imbalance in broadcasting and how different coverage leads to distorted views on events and affects the importance of the developed versus developing world. This report highlights how ICTs can permeate all aspects of society, affecting countries not only through markets but also through political, cultural, and social means. Bringing these older reports into our time where the world has continued to integrate technologies into daily life, we need to address the questions on how to achieve harmony and lower transaction costs as communications move among states (Cogburn 76).
Another question, as addressed by Cogburn in Transnational Advocacy Networks in the Information Society, asks how individuals can participate effectively in global processes, international organizations, and global governance. One highlight was the importance of transnational advocacy networks (TANs) which is “a network of activists, distinguishable largely by the centrality of principled ideas or values in motivating their formation” (Cogburn 31). TANs can act as a vehicle to the changing international regime because it considers state and non-state actors. It can be a voice for individuals and allow them to participate in internet governance and communications. The gap in technologies among countries and regions is large, yet it is so important and falls in line with inclusive sustainable development because as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) states, we are trying to achieve a common vision to “build a people-centric, inclusive and development oriented Information Society” (United Nations). If we want to further the SDGs, we need to consider the influential role ICTs play around the world and how we can use that to benefit everyone. I have been lucky enough to utilize technology and an information society and benefit from it through my personal and academic life, but it is shocking to see how many people are left out of this connection. If we want to achieve our inclusive, sustainable development goals, we need to make sure people have basic rights to communication technologies.
Brown, Ronald. “FALLING THROUGH THE NET: A Survey of the ‘Have Nots’ in Rural and Urban America.” FALLING THROUGH THE NET: A Survey of the “Have Nots” in Rural and Urban America | National Telecommunications and Information Administration, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 1995, http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fallingthru.html.
Cogburn, Derrick. Transnational Advocacy Networks in the Information Society, Information Technology and Global Governance, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-48361-4_1
Maitland, Donald. “The Missing Link.” International Telecommunication Union, ITU, 1985, www.itu.int/osg/spuold/sfo/missinglink/The_Missing_Ling_A4-E.pdf.
“World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations, 2019, sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?page=view&type=30022&nr=102&menu=3170.