Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Inclusive Sustainable Development

ICTs are critical to inclusive sustainable development as our world transitions to technology-dependent interactions/productions/goods. In the Maitland Commission Report, it is stated that telecommunication is taken for granted “as a key factor in economic, commercial, and social activity and as a prime source of cultural enrichment” in industrialized countries while in developing countries, telecommunications systems are “inadequate to sustain essential services” (3). Therefore, ICTs are critical to inclusive sustainable development because of their economic, social, commercial, and cultural benefits. Further, ICTs help sustain essential services, such as healthcare, education, finances, etc. The Maitland Commission Report goes so far as to say that “the existence of an efficient telecommunications system confers direct and indirect benefits which entitle it to be regarded as a public good” (8). As a public good, ICTs are important in situations of emergencies and for health services, and can “reduce the need to travel and facilitate better use of existing transport facilities,” to name a few of its uses (9). The ITU Matrix linking SDGs and WSIS Action Lines outlines different benefits and uses of ICTs. For example, action line C2 states that infrastructure is necessary to achieving digital inclusion and affordable ICT access, highlighting the importance of infrastructure in the promotion of ICTs. Action line C3 on access to information and knowledge portrays how ICTs “allow people, anywhere in the world, to access information and knowledge almost instantaneously,” continuing that instant access to knowledge and information is beneficial. 

Professor Cogburn’s book, Transnational Advocacy Networks in the Information Society, raises unique questions that should be considered in the field of inclusive sustainable development and in discussions on inclusion and representation more broadly. While stakeholders joined state actors in global deliberations and civil society groups gained a “seat at the table,” Professor Cogburn poses the question, “How does an incredibly diverse, heterogeneously rich, factitious, and resource-challenged civil society organize itself to participate effectively in these processes, to take advantage of that opening, that opportunity” (4)? We often talk about what can be done to ensure inclusion and representation, but once we “achieve inclusion” and representation, how do we ensure effective participation to achieve optimal results? We don’t talk much about what actions to take once inclusion is “achieved” (I place achieved in quotations because I feel that inclusion will never be achieved, as there is always room for representation; yet, I also acknowledge that this is a broad generalization). In other words, Professor Cogburn takes our conversations of inclusion and representation further, pushing us to think about how participation can continue to not only be achieved by marginalized groups, but how participation can be effective. On page seven, Professor Cogburn emphasizes this unique thought approach. He writes that his book focuses not on civil society actors protesting outside of the system but rather those that participate within the system (7). While discussions center on marginalized actors protesting the system, not much discussion is devoted to how these actors can affect change within the system itself (7). It seems that Professor Cogburn’s book takes common discussions of inclusion and representation to another level, by analyzing how historically marginalized groups/actors can participate once included and represented.

In regard to my capstone project with a regional focus on India, I decided to do some research to gain a basic understanding of ICTs in India, as I am not familiar with ICTs to begin with. Malik and Vigneswara Ilavarasan in their article, “Information and communication technology sector in India (Links to an external site.)” write that while ICT is “an important emerging sector of contemporary India,” data on ICT in India is limited (22). My project topic highlights the limited disaggregated data on persons with disability in India (and also globally). I am curious as to what specific determinants lead to limited data across disciplines in India. Is it India’s large population? Is it the disparity between India’s urban and rural areas? This could be an entirely new project, and I definitely want to look into this more regarding health, ICTs, infrastructure, education, and so many other aspects of life. I am so intrigued after finding that multiple fields have limited data in the Indian context. Malik and Vigneswara Ilavarasan also state that the ICT industry in India “has brought rural areas much closer to the markets,” resulting in “increased flow of information” (22). How can ICTs be used to promote inclusive health development in India. More specifically, how can ICTs promote quality healthcare access and universal health coverage, the two SDG indicators on which my project is based? In a world of increasing telehealth usage, particularly during COVID-19 (and India has been at the forefront of COVID-19 cases), how can ICTs facilitate greater access and coverage? These are questions I intend to pose when discussing recommendations for how the implementation of SDG 3, through indicators 3.8.1 and 3.8.8, in India might be more inclusive for persons with disabilities. I also need to conduct deeper research on ICTs to look beyond their general scope, and understand how ICTs have been used to facilitate healthcare access and coverage in India. I am curious to see if there is information on the intersection of ICTs, health, and persons with disabilities. I do not think there will be much information, if any, as a result of limited data on persons with disabilities, ICTs, and India.