Multistakeholder Internet Governance and Sustainable Development

Multistakeholder Internet Governance and Sustainable Development by Ines Renique

Privatizing telecommunications— how do you decide who to sell to? Do you pick the highest bidder or pick the one that produces the highest quality, arguable a subject measure? This is a class discussion I wanted to look further into afterwards as it is a curious subject.

I looked into ICANN, which was formerly under the U.S. Department of Commerce and has now taken the responsibility to represent a multitude of global interests to ensure transparent and open Internet across national borders.

The cost of giving up these controlling mechanisms is hard, especially for the U.S., which has previously had significant control due to the Internet’s growth in the U.S. The transfer of powers is criticized by elements in the national security branch of the U.S. government as it weakens the U.S. ability to protect itself against cyber attacks.

Ultimately, the dangers of having a non-profit in control of the Internet has to do with the reliability of having the same priorities, and resources to pursue threats to U.S. national security. The heightened frequency of these threats, as seen throughout the U.S. presidential election is certainly a cause of concern for U.S. politicians, since cyber security will most likely remain a matter of strictly national security in the near future.

The decision, however, is a step towards the right direction regardless of the costs. If the U.S. keeps control of its systems, it would have undermined the development of the ICANN, and made other countries reluctant towards the U.S. ability to cooperate to the make the Internet a truly global playing field.

  

Smart Cities, Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

Smart Cities, Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda by Ines Renique

Urbanization has been growing at exponential speeds, and Habitat III was a recent conference that addressed just that. Cities are growing and changing at levels that often states cannot keep up with. And considering cities make up about half of the worlds population, maintaining quality infrastructure, services and order is fundamental. Moreover a major issue needed to be addressed in order to create smart cities, is that of slums as well. I was recently in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the largest metropolitan city in the world. And there it was shocking to see the stark differences in society. As for example, right next to the most expensive and luxurious shopping mall filled with handbags and shoes costing thousands of dollars, was one of the largest “favelas” in the city.

Situations like these are exactly what was addressed in Habitat III and in the development of smart cities.Habitat III was an inclusive conference that allowed for people from around the world to participate virtually, even though the conference was in Quito, Ecuador. The deliverables from Habitat III would then be the New Urban Agenda.

Furthermore, the representation of many groups is imperative, since all have the “Right to the City”, as cities need to be inclusive. That is why Habitat III sets the agenda for 20 years on inclusive sustainable development of housing/infrastructure. And when doing so, includes major groups in the decision making process, such as indigenous people, local authorities, trade unions, women, children, aging and the elderly, among others. Furthermore, the New Urban Agenda makes 15 references to people with disabilities. And new technologies, such as the app piloted by the IDPP, work to further the inclusion of people with disabilities in new, smart cities.

ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development

ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development by Ines Renique

WSIS and WSIS+10 are working to narrow the digital divide. Furthermore, resources such as the SDG and WSIS matrix, allow greater access and points of comparison between the two important frameworks.

What I most investigated for my project was, how is that WSIS can promote education in remote areas. What I found was that the WSIS proposals of E-Business and E-Agriculture are taking advantage of ICTs to expand education outreach. As outlined in WSIS Action Line C7,  “E-learning can play an important role in making education accessible at any time and from any location, which will be particularly important for groups with little time and little flexibility to attend remote trainings.”

Many of the WSIS Action Lines, served as inspiration for me when thinking of the deliverable I wanted for my final project. Ultimately what I created was a platform but online and via phone apps that serve for students and teachers to share their thoughts on the education system in Peru.

And much of that project was inspired by the part of the WSIS+10 outcome document that puts its goals simply by saying:

“We reaffirm our common desire and commitment to the WSIS vision to build a people­ centered, inclusive and development ­oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

While that paragraph is only a small portion of the WSIS+10 document, I see it as the summation of the major idea behind it. Overall advancing the opportunities of people, and ensuring equality through access to ICTs, and ensuring their rights are met. While it sounds idealistic, WSIS+10 then goes into great detail as to how these goals can actually be accomplished. Moreover, as mentioned in other blog posts, accountability from states is essential to uphold the goals outlined.  That is why it was important to follow up on WSIS with WSIS+10, and continue to have task forces committed to promoting the values and conclusions from the WSIS meetings, within their own states.

The Digital Divide

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The Digital Divide by Ines Renique

Falling Through the Net was a report that meticulously addressed the divide between urban and rural parts of the country, and between access to ICTs. Moreover, my final project greatly focuses on the digital divide, trying to narrow the disparity between the rural and urban parts of Peru.

And while my project is centered internationally, there are many divides within the United States as well. As The White House website explains:

“The benefits of this technological revolution, however,

have not been evenly distributed. Millions of Americans

still do not regularly use a computer, and research shows

that there remain substantial disparities in both Internet

use and the quality of access. This “digital divide” is

concentrated among older, less educated, and less

affluent populations, as well as in rural parts of the

country that tend to have fewer choices and slower

connections.”

The United States is supposed to set the standard for under developed nations, however, the U.S still has problems of its own when it comes to disparities. The lack of ICTs directly correlates with lower income. This is demonstrated in the image above from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/wh_digital_divide_issue_brief.pdf 

This image highlights the fact that the specific areas in cities and towns with low income rates, also have low internet rates. This is a nationwide phenomenon, therefore, it is areas of low income that most need to be targeted when trying to expand ICT access.

Moreover, the the issue transcends just access to ICTs. The quality of said access is important. What point is there to having an internet router, if the connect does not work.

In regards to worldwide access to ICTs, The MacBride Commission report centered on the disparities between developing and developed countries. This report discusses the lack of democratization in ICTs in some nations.

It must be noted that the two reports mentioned are rather outdated. But, unfortunately, many of the issues outlined in the reports are still problems today.

Grand Challenges of Today

Grand Challenges of Today

The Grand Challenges are felt by every nation, as they are the most pressing global issues that need to be addressed by policy makers, thinkers, stakeholders and citizens. The issue of the global grand challenges transcends the public and private sector. The White House site adds to this by saying that “In addition to Federal investments, there are a growing number of companies, foundations, philanthropists, and research universities that are interested in pursuing Grand Challenges.” Highlighting some of the work done by The Gates Foundation, Google and IBM among others.

Futhermore, USAID highlights two points when looking at the grand challenges saying that:

“1) Science and technology, when applied appropriately, can have transformational effects; and

2) Engaging the world in the quest for solutions is critical to instigating breakthrough progress.”

Organizations and governments are planning for future technologies, but the grand challenges priorities vary country to country. In some nations the grand challenges may be more simple of complex than in others.

Lewis Branscomb is critical of just focusing on technological and scientific advances. He asked the question “But is this policy focus on science sufficient to the tasks at hand?” The tasks at hand being large society challenges that need to be solved.

Branscomb continues to point out that, historically, the United States government “would support academic science, engineering, and medical research, leaving the management and finance for transforming scientific discoveries into economic value to the incentives of private financial markets. By this route, the United States has built the most powerful science knowledge engine in the world.”

Looking at the past as Branscomb just did, allows one to see trends that may be repeated.

I agree with Branscomb’s points that the current science may not be enough to catch up to a rapidly changing society with many problems to be addressed.

Global Strategies & Frameworks

I once read about a Norwegian aid agency that decided  to invest in providing a village in Kenya with a fish-freezing plant. Only to find out that the people of this village raise goats. This was a useless investment that has been replicated time and time again. Bringing to question… can international “outsider” organizations impose on other nations? Do other “developed” nations really know what a “developing” nation most needs?

There is a double edged sword oftentimes when it comes to global strategies. And as the Sustainable Development Goals were only put into place a year ago, they Millennium Development Goals are a great point of reference to see what was done right and what was done wrong. Moreover these mistakes and successes can then be inspiration for the remaining years of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Task Teams are a great means of reflection. “The MDGs after 2015: Some

reflections on the possibilities” by Deepak Nayyar’s is a report with insightful points about the post 2015 development agenda.

A key point Nayyar makes, and that i have always argued when it came to the MDGs, is that “the MDGs specify an outcome but do not set out the process which would make it possible to realize the objectives. In other words, the MDGs specify a destination but do not chart the journey” (page 6 of report). Fortunately, the SDGs outline targets in more detail for each goal, which addresses the problem Nayyar points out.

Lastly, he also points of the importance of national context. That based on a country’s norms and mores, propositions and solutions need to be reformulated. Along with that is the importance of governments in making progress advance. Nayyar explains that “In rethinking development, it is important to recognize the relevance of the balance between domestic and external factors and the critical importance of public action.” Achieving that balance and fulfilling the call to action from local communities are fundamental in moving towards higher standards of life.

Gender & Development

Gender & Development by Ines Renique 

“Development if not engendered, is endangered” is a statement that is to the defense of women, and the role that they play in the development of communities, families, and nations. Women are the key component to positive changes, not just for themselves but for those around them, as the expression goes: “ educate a girl and you are educating an entire village”. Moreover, development is not gender neutral, as it is more often than not sexist and repressive towards women. Take for example, the informal unpaid work of women.

Much of subsistent production, informal paid work, volunteer work, and domestic production, is all led or conducted by women. More often than not, these types of work, although all essential, are not accounted for in a nation’s economy, as they are considered to be outside of the economic realm. However, if household production were in fact accounted for, then growth rates would be more accurate. Development of countries cannot even be measured entirely accurately without accounting for the work so many women do around the world.   

Moreover, something else that stagnates development is that so many women and girls are not accounted for. A statistic I learned recently—each day, 41,000 girls are married as children, making it 15 million girls a year. Besides being a human rights violation, this is a massive blockade to development. These are girls that will not be able to receive a higher education, and girls that will be expected to have children while they themselves are still children. These girls can easily become women that are unaccounted for, and that are not given the basic rights of citizenship, as outlined by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Combating deeply entrenched gendered norms is a far from easy task. Any kind of intervention  to create positive change for women and development will undoubtedly need to be multi- sectoral. However, there are daily advancements in improving the lives of women and empowering them further. A healthy, educated, and empowered woman is the key to further development.