IGF: Internet Rights and Principals

During the 2018 Internet Governance Forum, I watched the webinar titled “DC on Internet Rights and Principals: Sustainable Future: The Internet, Humans Rights, and Environmental Issues”. The seminar was an open-mic discussion of the connectivity between the Internet, human rights, and the environment and the goal was to serve as the beginnings of a coalition on this topic. It discussed some of the key issues of accessibility, energy impact of Internet infrastructure, and finding a balance between equal access and sustainable access.

Access to information and internet as a means for development has been established as a human right under the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, but sustainability is something which historically has not been factored into the equation when it comes to striving for wider Internet access. The SDGs mention both sustainability and technology, but the link between them is left as something to be implied. But given the energy used in both creating the infrastructure for Internet use and in processing massive amounts of data, sustainability is absolutely something that needs to be brought into the conversation of expanding Internet accessibility.

One of the main themes of the seminar was the need to recognize and fill policy gaps. The fact that the SDGs don’t explicitly overlap energy, ICT infrastructure, and environmental sustainability is a major policy gap at the international level, but is also language that is missing at the state and local level. A new coalition called the Digital Cities Coalitions for Human Rights led by Amsterdam, Barcelona, and New York are working to create standards for companies and public spaces for the creation of data centers. Their goal is to incorporate internet as a human right into a holistic approach to sustainability for equitable, sustainable data centers which are popping up more and more in cities. A key takeaway from the seminar was the need to incorporate social inclusion and environmental awareness into the design of networks, products, and supply chains—regulation afterwards is less effective and more costly in resources and can delay equitable access.

Another key point was the importance of making this dialogue on internet, human rights, and environmental sustainability multi-stakeholder in nature. For example, the private sector has a critical role to play given that it collects massive amounts of data in comparison to the public sector. Additionally, local innovations and the formation of microgrids for internet as it were, could play an important role in achieving harmony between these three areas. Overall, the webinar brought together key themes of connection between the internet, human rights, and environmental sustainability in a manner that equalized the three fields and called for further collaboration to see sustainable, equitable access to the internet.

Global Strategic Frameworks

The Global Strategic Framework that exists for the SDGs has made more room for participation of NGOs and specifically disability-focused organizations, however there is still progress to be made to achieve effective multi-stakeholder participation at a global level. The MDGs provided a good jumping point for improvement with the SDGs, but it must be recognized some of the significant flaws and barriers that existed within the MDG framework. Continue reading

ICTs and Sustainable Development

ICTs play such a critical role globally that economies, human health and safety, and social welfare are tied to them inseparably. Conversely, lacking access to ICTs can jeopardize the quality of issues that are tied to, isolating and confining individuals to limited options. While the innovations in technology have made ICTs more adaptable to different environments and have a diverse enough number of operators that their reach has spread even to sparsely populated and rural areas, there are still swaths of people in developed and developing countries alike that don’t have sufficient access to ICTs. Continue reading

Inclusive Education

Education is perhaps one of the most complementary fields to target for inclusivity. Due to the nature of learning, the various ways that individuals of all backgrounds learn best, and the importance of education in sustainable development, inclusive education is essential to achieving the SDGs and their commitments to persons with disabilities. Continue reading

Inclusive Cities, Habitat III, and the NUA

Our discussion of inclusive cities today recalled some memories of studying abroad in Seoul. By many standards, Seoul can be considered a smart city; it incorporates numerous apps for transportation, safety mechanisms in CCTV, and the use of innovative technology can be found in nearly every neighborhood in the city. However, aspects of inclusivity in the city were sporadically, almost as if they had been stuffed into a city-plan last minute. Continue reading