Multistakeholder Internet Governance

What is Internet governance and who exactly governs the Internet? These are the issues we grappled with in our class discussion about multistakeholder Internet governance. Internet governance is complex. The Internet is not owned by a single entity; there is no global government in charge of the Internet. Instead, multiple stakeholders govern the Internet through various means including the IGF and ICANN.

As highlighted in class, the concept of Internet governance arose after the first phase of WSIS in Geneva, Switzerland. This introduction of Internet governance allowed for the creation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). As mentioned on its’ website, the IGF is a “multistakeholder platform that facilitates the discussion of public policy issues pertaining to the Internet.” Further, the IGF “serves to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet.”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) also governs the Internet utilizing a multistakeholder governance framework. According to its’ website, ICANN is a “not-for-profit partnership of people from all over the world keeping the Internet secure, stable, and interoperable.”

Because the Internet has no boundaries, it is my opinion that the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance is highly beneficial. The Internet should not be owned or regulated by one entity, organization, or nation. This would give far too much power to one entity, and would be counterintuitive in the movement toward inclusive sustainable development.

According to “Internet Governance – Why the Multistakeholder Approach Works,” the multistakeholder governance framework is informed by (1) open-ended unleashed innovation, (2) decentralized governance institutions, and (3) open and inclusive processes. I believe that this framework is highly important, especially regarding the inclusiveness and transparency, collective responsibility, and effective decision-making and implementation measures of the multistakeholder governance framework. This framework allows for the participation of the international community in addressing a very critical need – access to the Internet. As access to ICTs increases in bridging the “digital-divide”, Internet governance will continue to be a predominant issue, especially with the addition of new stakeholders.

ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development

Information and communications technology (ICTs) is a broad umbrella term focused on technology including radios, computers, phones, hardware, software etc. ICT’s play an integral role in the movement toward inclusive sustainable development, specifically in tackling the grand challenge of the “digital divide.” ICTs allow for increased accessibility, as well as inclusivity. They are crosscutting and play highly beneficial roles in a multitude of grand challenges, specifically disaster risk management and education, in addition to the digital-divide.

The “Maitland Commission Report” by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) played an integral role in the discovery of the “digital divide.” The report, otherwise known as “the Missing Link,” highlighted the disparity between developed and developing nations in regards to telephone access. The report made an important connection among the availability of telecommunication infrastructure and economic growth, and aimed to fix this disparity among nations. “The Maitland Commission Report” was the first that advocated for the importance of universal and equal access to information and communications technology. The movement toward achieving universal access of ICT’s was continued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in a report entitled “Falling through the Net,” The NTIA discovered a significant digital divide among the “haves” and the “have nots” in the United States, in regards to Internet accessibility.

Both the “Maitland Commission Report” and “Falling through the Net” set the stage for the introduction of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The Summit was held in two phases; phase one took place in Geneva and phase two took place in Tunis. Both focused on the effectiveness of ICTs as a means to achieve development. Specifically, the WSIS+10 document highlights the importance of multistakeholder partnerships in the effort toward bridging the ICT gap.

As mentioned earlier, ICT’s play an integral role in the “digital divide.” Although it is hard to imagine our world without the Internet, this imagination is a reality for a large portion of the world. This imagination is even a reality for a considerable portion of the United States. Providing equal and universal access to ICT’s bridges the digital divide. However, this is an increasingly challenging task. As mentioned in WSIS+10, in order to move toward bridging the ICT gap, a multistakeholder approach is necessary. However, providing equal and universal access to ICTs within an inclusive sustainable development context, will be very challenging.

Efficacy of Global Frameworks

Efforts towards tackling grand challenges are culminated in the creation of global frameworks. Examples of global frameworks include the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, and the Sendai Framework. These global frameworks aim to empower States into incorporating efforts domestically. However, because frameworks merely provide guidance to stakeholders on a specific issue, there is no legally binding obligation upon the Member State to incorporate the practices of global frameworks domestically. This proves to be problematic at the monitoring and implementation stage. This was increasingly true for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), a set of eight goals focused on addressing grand challenges including education and poverty eradication.

The MDG’s fell short of meeting its’ goals and therefore have received much criticism. In “MDGs After 2015: Some Reflections on the Possibilities,” Deepak Nayyar criticizes the effectiveness of the Millennium Development Goals, but also provides important imperatives regarding the succession of the MDG’s. Nayyar criticizes the MDG’s for their (1) multiplicity of objectives; (2) lack of specificity of objectives; and (3) misleading indicators. I found it especially interesting that the MDG targets were used a scale for assessing individual State performance, while they were meant to measure collective performance. This is precisely why the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda adopted specific goals, targets and indicators to inform stakeholders. Nayyar also addresses three important imperatives in exploring alternative constructs to the MDG’s. He notes that it is imperative that (1) there is structural flexibility at the national level; (2) there is cognition of inequality in any assessment of outcomes; and (3) the new MDG framework incorporates something on means rather than simply focus on ends.

The Sustainable Development Goals deliver upon Nayyar’s imperatives. While the SDG’s are an improvement on the broad themes of the MDG’s, the SDG’s are already facing criticism in regards to its’ monitoring and evaluation capabilities via the HLPF.

Monitoring and evaluation of international frameworks will continue to be problematic. It is increasingly difficult to monitor and evaluate the process toward eradicating global challenges, given the national differences and inequalities among nations, as well as the institutional hurdles. The HLPF will serve as a test for the implementation and monitoring of the SDG’s.

In my opinion, due to very nature of global frameworks, there will always be critics. These critics do not take into account the importance of an interconnected global world focused on tackling grand challenges. While, of course, improvements can always be made, the current trajectory toward inclusive sustainable development seems promising. This is evident in the shift from the MDG’s to the SDG’s.

 

 

Intersectionality in Sustainable Development

Intersectionality is the study of intersecting social identities – such as race, gender, social class, etc. As we highlighted in class, intersectionality exists among the Major Groups Framework. The nine major groups include: women, children, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, businesses, civil society, and worker and trade unions. It is entirely plausible that intersectionalities among the Major Groups Framework exist. This is especially problematic because an individual has to separate their identity and choose their priorities due to a highly politicized process. It is even more challenging when intersectionalities exist that are not within the major groups framework. For example, persons with disabilities are not included in the framework. Therefore, if a disabled child was chosen as a representative of the children major group, he/she would have to separate his/her identity and choose their priorities. When viewed from this perspective, intersectionality is quite challenging. Further, as mentioned by several classmates, intersectionalites are not often not given enough attention or are often misunderstood. This is problematic because it has detrimental effects on development theory as a whole. As Ana mentioned in her post, inclusive sustainable development can only be achieved when intersectionalities are taken into account.

However, intersectionality can also be viewed as how frameworks and ideas correlate to one another. As such, intersectionality can also exist among global grand challenges within international frameworks. For example, the grand challenge of disaster risk management is tackled in the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, and the Sendai Framework. Specifically, The Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework, and the New Urban Agenda share a commitment to mainstreaming disaster risk management at all levels to reduce vulnerabilities, specifically in at-risk areas. Further, the Sendai Framework plays an important role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The integration of disaster risk into sustainable development planning is essential to the success of the SDG’s, the Sendai Framework, and Habitat III. All three international frameworks highlight the necessity of disaster risk management. Specifically, the SDG’s and the Sendai Framework highlight the importance of building resilience in vulnerable communities via education.

Specifically, in regards to the SDG’s, there are a total of 25 targets specifically related to disaster risk reduction in ten out the seventeen SDGs. Disaster risk intersects with the global challenges of poverty eradication, food security, education, inclusive cities, and climate change. As such, it is evident that building resilience to natural disaster is fundamental to achieving the grand challenges set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

These global frameworks work in cohesion to reinforce the importance of the global grand challenge of disaster risk management in the international community. As such, when viewed from the perspective of global grand challenges, intersectionality is highly beneficial.

Inclusive Education

Achieving universal education is a grand challenge that has been afflicting the global community for decades. The Millennium Development Goals set out to achieve universal primary education by 2015, but obviously fell short of meeting its’ goal. Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education maintains the commitment of the international community in achieving universal education, with an emphasis on inclusive education. Education is highly important as it the foundation for development. Specifically, inclusive education is integral for children with disabilities. According to Investigating Teachers’ Concerns and Experiences in Teaching Children With Special Educational needs in Bhutan, 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries.

As mentioned in Inclusive Education Initiatives for Children with Disabilities: Lessons from the East Asia and the Pacific Region, every child has a right to education as highlighted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Disabled children are not an exception to this rule. In fact, the lack of educational opportunities offered to children with disabilities is increasingly problematic, because without education, children with disabilities “face huge barriers to full social and economic participation in society.” This is evident from our guest speaker, Mr. Nay Lin Soe. Mr Nay Lin Soe mentioned that he was initially denied education in Myanmar because of his disability. This lack of inclusive education has large implications, as Mr. Nay Lin Soe demonstrated in his presentation. In Myanmar, 53% of disabled children do not have access to primary education. A total of 1% of the population is a university graduate with a disability. Further, 85% of disabled adults are not employed. This data indicates the larger impact of the lack of inclusive education measures. More than half of all disabled children in Myanmar do not have access to education; this translates to 85% of disabled adults without employment. Persons with disabilities are subject to unfreedoms that should be guaranteed to individuals. These unfreedoms cause persons with disabilities to face barriers in social and economic participation in society, resulting in an 85% of disabled adults unemployment rate in Myanmar.

Because of this, the adoption of disability inclusive education practices is essential. Disability inclusive education is “a process of including children with disabilities in mainstream classes in a way that addresses and responds to their individual learning needs” (Inclusive Education Initiatives for Children with Disabilities: Lessons from the East Asia and the Pacific Region). However, achieving disability inclusive education is rather challenging. In an effort to make disability inclusive education less challenging, UNESCO and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) compiled a model policy document to assist Member States in developing policy geared toward inclusive education. This model is an extremely important in the effort toward achieving inclusive education.

The Digital Divide(s)

These days it is difficult to imagine our world without the Internet. Since the invention of the Internet in 1989, Internet usage has increased tenfold. The Internet is now an integral part of everyday life for many individuals. While it may seem that a majority of the world has access to the Internet, this is far from the truth. For example, when conducting research for my capstone project, I discovered that out of Timor-Leste’s 1.2 million people population, a mere 14,030 individuals have access to the Internet from their homes.

While information and communications technologies (ICTs) grow rapidly, large portions of society remain largely disconnected from the Internet, thus perpetuating the digital divide. The digital divide refers to the difference in individuals who have access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) and those who do not. The digital divide describes the patterns of unequal access to information technology based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, geography, and broadband and bandwith access. The various types of digital divides have large implications in the movement toward inclusive sustainable development.

The MacBride Commission report, “Many Voices, One World,” published in 1980, under UNESCO, highlighted the imbalances between developed and developing countries in respect to information capacities, particularly relating to the media. As a result of its’ findings, UNESCO, promoted the establishment of a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) to address imbalances of the media and the unequal access to information and communication.

In “Falling through the Net, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), discovered a significant digital divide among the “haves” and the “have nots” in the United States. According to “Falling through the Net”, “Minorities, low-income persons, the less educated, and children of single-parent households, particularly when they reside in rural areas or central cities, are among the groups that lack access to information resources” in the United States. Despite the increasing prevalence of ICT’s in the United States, large disparities still exist.

The MacBride Report “Many Voices, One World,” and “Falling through the Net” emphasize the importance of equal access to ICTs. However, in bridging this gap, emphasis must not solely be placed on access to Internet, but on the capabilities of Internet access. As we spoke about in class, important considerations must include – how much information can flow through the pipe, is there access to broadband Internet, is there access to broadband remotely, and how much bandwith is available. The movement toward bridging the gap must not only focus on providing the infrastructure, but focusing on what can be done with the infrastructure provided.

In order to achieve inclusive sustainable development, it is essential that universal service of information and communications technologies be achieved. The success in achieving universal service of ICTs is dependent on innovation, investment, and multistakeholderism. For example, incentivizing the private sector to get involved in bridging the digital divide is highly important. Encouraging competition and investing resources is also vital to bridging the digital divide.

Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

Habitat III is the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The conference focused on adopting the New Urban Agenda, which focuses on how the international community plans, manages, and lives in cities. The New Urban Agenda is a guide to building inclusive and sustainable cities. According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population is living in urban areas and by 2030, almost 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. The New Urban Agenda highlights the importance of the relationship between urbanization and development. A growth in population density can correlate to escalating adaption needs and substantial development deficits created by a shortage of human and financial resources. Instead of allowing urbanization to further exacerbate dilemmas, it is important to understand that urbanization presents an opportunity to incorporate inclusive and sustainable development practices in cities via policy, planning, and design. Given that the world’s concentration in urban areas is growing, it is critical that as cities grow, the practice of inclusive and sustainable development grows with it. This idea is culminated in both the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal #11. Both international frameworks highlight the importance of inclusive cities.

This emphasis on inclusive cities is especially important for persons with disabilities. In “Enabling Justice: Spatializing Disability in the Built Environment”, Pineda asserts that dominant models of disability fail to address the disabling role of the environment. Pineda mentions that persons with disabilities are often viewed without consideration of the environment. He asserts that it is crucial to view a person as being disabled with respect to the environment. Pineda argues “people with disabilities have for too long been an invisible constituency for architects and planning practitioners who build the public and private spaces we inhabit.”

Inclusive cities aim to combat the unfreedoms that persons with disabilities face in an urban environment. The idea of inclusive cities is that they are available to everyone, including people of different economic backgrounds and persons with disabilities. The New Urban Agenda shares this commitment to the freedoms of persons with disabilities; this is evident in its’ fifteen references to persons with disabilities within the New Urban Agenda.

The New Urban Agenda and SDG 11 also share a commitment toward “smart cities.” Smart cities attract a young professional demographic and drive innovation. Jordan raises a critical point in addressing the goal toward achieving smart cities. While the NUA and SDG 11 share a commitment to both, smart cities and inclusive cities do not always coincide with one another. Achieving a balance between smart and inclusive cities will prove to be rather challenging.