The Global “Grand Challenge” of Inclusive Sustainable Development

When incorporating disability and development together, we run across the “Grand Challenge”. This is a challenge but also an opportunity for the world in which all people with disability are and feel included. Currently, more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability which, in fact, is about 15% of every country’s population in the world. There may be physical impairment, but there are other components to disability like mobility and blind or visually or deaf or hard-of-hearing impaired barriers that people face. This goes to show that at any point in time, anyone can be become disabled. These barriers to such physical impairment can hinder their everyday actions regarding transportation, education, ICTs, employment, and political representation. Grand challenges are very difficult to resolve but they are very important problems.

We should care for this because of the moral rationality to this, because it is the right thing to do. Also, there is an economic rationale which is an universal design and provides accessibility that benefits everyone. Economically, there may be job creation and economic development opportunities are made by addressing the “Grand Challenge”. Additionally, there are legal and policy rationales that incorporates the CRPD—UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is one of the fastest-growing human rights treaty in history. This factors in human rights instruments and development (socioeconomic) instrument. There are many articles within CRPD that demonstrates the shift become medical model to the social justice rights-based model. The United States has not ratified the CRPD and therefore, this becomes a critical time in the United States for people to have a paradigm shift.

The “Grand Challenges” are pretty time-bound and they seem to be ambitious goals but achievable. They aren’t impossible so we should strive to reach these goals. One thing that I’ve learned from this capstone class and about inclusive sustainable development is the fact that this study is very multidisciplinary. From Obama’s administration, there was a shift and from his administration, there was more of a focus on science and technology—a mobilization of our goals. Goals are so pertinent to achieving the global challenge, especially if they are attainable and achievable.

There are many actors involved in achieving the “Grand Challenge” and the UN DESA (Department of Education and Social Affairs), the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights within the Committee on the Rights of Disabilities. The MDGs were started as goals without persons with disabilities. Therefore, SDGs had goals that included the persons with disabilities. Since we saw that there is a high correlation between disability and poverty, we can have development for people with disabilities, but it should definitely include persons with disabilities. The study of inclusive sustainable development is such an interdisciplinary field of study where we find the relationships between these subject matters and need to consider various components and stakeholders for achieving these initiatives and goals.

Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Internet governance was a very controversial topic at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) from the General Assembly, as an awakening of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. There are many approaches to the Internet governance issue, and we understand that it should be inclusive and responsive. However, to what extent should certain stakeholders be involved and how does the multistakeholder policy dialogue change the ways that the discussions are brought out?

Once exploring the Internet Governance Forum, we are able to see how various stakeholders are involved in order to address the topics of internet through the discussion of public policies encompassing these issues. Hence, the “IGF is a global multistakeholder platform that facilitates the discussion of public policy issues pertaining to the internet. There are many initiatives and topics discussed within the forum. In terms of the issues discussed in the 12th meeting of the IGF in 2017, with the on-going industrial revolution, there are topics regarding the impact of modern technologies in the industry, society, and the economy. The new digital economy and sustainable development, are they really create opportunities for everyone or are they actually creating a digital divide? My understanding of this “deepening of divide” is that while more people who already have access to technologies are become even more powerful and enablers of changing the society through online platforms; those who do not have the internet access and who do not have the available resources to access anything via Internet, they are experiencing and even greater gap and isolation from the society utilizing the Internet as the main platform for important issues like policy making, decision making, and even just basic human rights. Some other topics that are brought about at the IGF are cybersecurity, AI, Blockchains and bitcoins, fake news, access, inclusion and diversity. I find that these topics are quite critical and require an interdisciplinary approach to learning (with cybersecurity, development, sustainability, and technologies) and understanding our “Internet Governance”.

The IGF is an Annual Meeting for Internet Governance Forum which has an overarching theme that differs every year. In 2019 November, the Government of Germany in Berlin hosted the 14th Annual Meeting with the overarching theme: One World. One Net. One Vision. IGF serves to bring people together the stakeholder groups for all of them to be treated equally and discuss the policy issues that is related to the Internet. This forum is intended to influence various public and private sectors to work together and exchange information to have a better understanding of how the Internet can help maximize the opportunities of our international development.


Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance and Sustainable Development

In a time of digital transformation, internet governance is integral to the study of global governance and international development. Within the definition of internet governance, the words development and government are all included. There are many stakeholders important to the study of internet governance. Because so much of society utilizes the Internet to do anything, many business decisions, procedures, programs are regulated through the Internet. The platforms accessible on the internet allows for more stakeholder groupings to be involved. For instance, for those who are not able to attend a development conference because of a certain disability or because of proximity, they are able to access the conference virtually and even contribute through that chat function or through video calls. Although the Internet has revolutionized a lot of our experiences and gave us more opportunities to perform certain tasks, there is a certain risk factor that we need to take into consideration. There are incidences where some people can have too much power or access over other people’s personal data, with a powerful internet system, sometimes there are risks of cyber-attacks and insecure internet systems. For this reason, we need governance of our Internet.

            To me personally, internet governance is a fascinating topic for us to understand the implications and application to the global frameworks that have been discussed in our Senior Capstone class: Inclusive Sustainable Development. There is a huge role that technology plays because we have integrated systems and we are able to have a space that allows for more agility and opens up time and space to communicate across a wide range of groups. The internet seems to lack its governance; therefore, we need regulations by actors. But the question is, who is really governing the Internet and to what extent should the U.S. government be in charge of our Internet accessibilities or data? Do people understand what Internet Governance is? To what extent should the government have control over Internet Governance?

            The multistakeholder approach for internet governance has the idea of decentralizing institutions and governance, opening it up to include everyone and allowing for full participation by all (including persons with disabilities), and having an open-mind aspect for innovation. From my opinion, this approach does work. These components play a huge role in understanding the international norm for enabling decision-making to be accountable, sustainable and effective for all stakeholders. Therefore, there is the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that allows for people to incorporate and adapt to new challenges surrounding the Internet. I believe what’s truly important to evaluate here is the ability to meet new challenges that evolves around the idea of inclusiveness and transparency.

Intersectionality in Inclusive Development

            The concept of intersectionality is a phenomenal study that looks into the social, political identities combine and studies the nature of the interconnected-ness of the social categories like race, nationality, rank, status, class, and many more that is associated to one individual or a group and is shaped in a way that could become of discrimination or disadvantage is a group or larger setting. Intersectionality is really important to understanding the inclusivity discussion in development on a global scale. Because there are so many people in the world, there are many concepts and groupings of diversity that needs to be incorporated in the discussion of inclusion. More specifically, for the understanding of the concept of intersectionality, when studying these things internationally and having a global agenda like the UCLF (United Cities and Local Governments), we need to keep an eye out for how international processes are governed through inclusiveness means. For this reason, intersectionality helps us to understand what these components include and how they all people should be valued and listened to regardless of how one’s identity is composed.

            The concept of intersectionality affects inclusive sustainable development as seen by such forums and summits. The GovTech Summit happening in Paris oversees how new startups and entrepreneurs are successfully “breaking into the public sector”. At this time, it is critical that government entities are understanding the importance of private firms and the role of technology that is flourishing our current GovTech ecosystems. For example, take a look at what AWS is doing and how there has been a huge transformation from physical infrastructures to the cloud. What the government is concerned with is the security and transparency of data. The private firms are willing to bring this transformation of data and store it in the cloud. There have been many efforts from the government like the DevSecOps which integrates the practices of security within the DevOps process.

            Therefore, the inclusive environments like GovTech Summit enables tech starters and all other stakeholders like government agencies to come to one table and discuss the transformation of our nations’ important discussions to the incorporation of technology. For instance, GovTech Summit had discussions on transforming health care through technology, leapfrogging towards a digital government by delivering effective and sustainable technological development in the economy. The summit and the impacts from it  recognized that there are multiple stakeholders that need to be in par with the initiatives—those stakeholders include: national governments, local economies, and decision-makers (on a grassroots level), multilateral organizations, and development banks.



The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner developed the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) as a framework for the first human rights convention of this time.The CRPD provisions are supported by human rights indicators as well as a list of articles. When we think about CRPD as a framework for development, the implementation of human rights indications are clearly sought out for, especially in regards to CRPD linkage to the SDGs. This type of consultation supports the “Bridging of Gaps” as a means of strength

ening the rights of persons with disabilities in mutual consultation with the CRPD and the SDGs. The cool thing about the CRPDs is that these indicators are closely linked to the SDGs. Additionally, they specify the importance of monitoring, reporting, and implementing the targets and indicators listed in each of the SDGs. Then, how are SDGs relevant?

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Inclusive “Smart City” Approach

Building the world’s smart sustainable cities together is one of 17 goals (SDG 11) of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2018, the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) met to discuss some goals, SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) being one of them. With rapid urbanization and movement of people from rural to urban cities, the growth of cities is staggering. In today’s society, mass potentiality also bring challenges to maximize Information Technology (IT) and Internet of Things (IoT). I cannot emphasize enough the impact of “big data” and how “data is king”. Through the indicators and targets of SDG 11, we are able to come to solutions that truly enable cities to become smart and sustainable.

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What is Development?: Theoretical & Conceptual Approaches

Development is a key thematic area of focus within the study of international affairs. Although I do not come from the background of ‘Development’, these theoretical and conceptual approaches are very familiar to an international relations researcher, like myself.  In fact, development theories reach deeper into the practicality of solving foundational issues which are commonly based on economic or social policies. According to Development Studies literature, such approaches in development consists of means, opportunities and substantive freedoms that bring human beings value. 

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To what extent is technology impacting Inclusive Education?

Disability-inclusive education is when persons with disability (PWD) and any people that require more steps or preparation for accessing any resource are fully emerged in the imitative for inclusive education. In other words, inclusive education helps children with disabilities to prepare for full participation in community life. Therefore, education should be provided regardless of any of the barriers and challenges that people with disabilities may have. Not just for PWD, but inclusive education should encompass any group and community, or individual hoping to receive education. Henceforth, inclusive education is not only for children but also for those who are hoping to access education but cannot because of a physical or social or any type of barrier. Therefore, technology may enable for a platform that gives access to the virtual learning. Persons with disabilities should have the equal opportunity from the stages before, during and after receiving education—for employment and other social activities. These initiatives all start from education and educational empowerment is so crucial to all of the other results that we hope to bring to our community.

Education, as  part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations framework, is important for the education goal from SDG Goal 4. The Sustainable Development Goal 4 ensures “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. According to the United Nations, many developing nations are still lacking the basic infrastructure and facilities that provide an effective means of learning. Therefore, because there is lack of access to education infrastructures, there are not enough ability for those developing nations to have the same level or better yet the same accessibilities to receive education. In this time of technological development, education plays a huge role in terms of how education can be accessed and how the quality of education is, who more is able to receive the education, and which better ways we are able to hold global summits and conferences. Not only does technology allow for distance-barriers for conferences, but also for those physically unable to access these sites.

Many supports the scope of education through ICTs and believe that ICT can improve the learner’s motivation and engagement for learning. With the transformation in the “cool” technological tools, there can be a paradigm shift to a “learner-centered” environment. This enables the teachers to enforce more engagement from students and from the professors with the tool available. Then, we start to question the quality of education that is done online. To what extent can ICT play a role in the quality of education and not just the inclusivity of this subject in hand? What do we do to ensure that the facilitation of education still has high quality and enhances the environment in which education is hosted online and through other ICT platforms?


ICT and Inclusive Sustainable Development: The Digital Divide

ICT is an amazing revolution that enables information to be shared across communication technology platforms. Thus, the telecommunications are when technologies will provide the access to information. This is a good method for improving accessibility and inclusivity for transmitting, distributing, delivering and receiving information. ICT has played a huge role in ICT for sustainable development and the integration of technology has been important for many different platforms. For example, in the development of energy power grids, ICT has become important for recording energy consumption levels and recording the data through ICT. ICT includes the integration of telecommunications like wireless computers, enterprise software, middleware, storage, etc. The WSIS+10 is the process marking the ten-year milestone since the 2005 summit. Therefore in 2015, the WSIS+10 was sponsored by the UN to understand and discuss the implications of ICT and emerging technologies in this integrated society.

WSIS discussed a lot of components on ICTs, development and bridging the global digital divide. The digital divide origin seems to have derived from the inequality and unequal distribution of technological development. Therefore, WSIS+10 was a 10-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society in December 2015. The impact for this summit was to initiative a follow-on activity in support of the MDGs. The following were the key issues: internet governance; the role of ICTs in development; and privacy, security and human rights.

The role of ICTs in development encourages many stakeholders who are looking to see the benefits of ICTs that play a role in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as adopted by the summit. This goes to tell us how important these summits are in initiating the goals and development related WSIS goals over the past couple of years and over decades. By having WSIS+10, it establishes a milestone for measuring the key metrics that started from these summits. In this way, ICTs are integrated into the SDGs because we start to see how they play a role and how ICTs are shaped to reach the goals of SDGs. Furthermore, the “Transnational Advocacy Networks in the Information Society” helps us see the changes of information society and how necessary it is for us to have governance practices. There are many case studies and qualitative and quantitative data incorporated in the study along with the international global governance conferences and policy procedures. There is a continued argument for the importance and resilience of international regime theory and how significant these conceptual frameworks are for understanding our evolving information society. Although ICTs are great and all, we see that there is a start to this “digital divide”. Moreover, we need to address the gaps in internet access that there is with various groups. This also links back to intersectionality where we need to incorporate all sorts of inclusivity.