ICTs and Inclusive Sustainable Development- Digital Divide(s)

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) play a crucial role in working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The term digital divide refers to “the gap that exists between those with access to new technologies and those without” due to inequality in access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) (NTIA).

The Missing Link, also known as the Maitland Report, was published in January 1985 and “drew international attention to the huge imbalance in telephone access between developed and developing countries and concluded that this imbalance was intolerable.” Most notably, this report “underlined the direct correlation between the availability of, and access to, telecommunication infrastructure and a country’s economic growth, and it proposed concrete solutions to fix this missing link. The report advocates for an “expanded world telecommunications network” which would benefit both developing and developed countries. It outlines how this expanded network would increase the flow of information, trade, and make the world a better and safer place (NTIA).    

In 1999, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, released a report titled Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide. The NTIA is responsible for advising the President on policy issues regarding telecommunications and information. Falling Through the Net identified the digital divide as “one of America’s leading economic and civil issues.”

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place in two phases- the first in Geneva in 2003 and the second in Tunis in 2005. The first phase sought to “develop and foster a clear statement of political will and take concrete steps to establish the foundations for an Information Society for all,” whilst the second phase sought to put the plan that was developed in Geneva into motion. This Summit demonstrates the understanding amongst the international community that the digital divide is an issue and needs to be addressed.

The digital divide that still exists today is a Grand Challenge of inclusive sustainable development. Given the capacity that ICTs have to influence inclusive and sustainable development, it is imperative that we address this Grand Challenge of the digital divide so that the capacity that ICTs have to assist in affecting positive change can be realized. In order to meet the goals of the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, information and communication technologies need to be available for all. Therefore, we need to close the digital divide, and increase equality in access to ICTs.

Multistakeholder Internet Governance- Live from the IGF

The multistakeholder approach to internet governance is “widely accepted as the optimal way to make policy decisions for a globally distributed network” (Internet Society). Multistakeholder decision-making is an essential component to achieving inclusive sustainable development because because as we have discussed throughout the semester, international cooperation is a key factor in solving the “Grand Challenge” of inclusive sustainable development. Multistakeholder Internet Governance allows for inclusiveness and transparency, effective decision-making and implementation, and collaboration (Internet Society).

The 13th annual Internet Governance Forum was hosted by the Government of France in Paris at the headquarters of UNESCO from November 12 to 14 of 2018.  The Internet Governance Forum aims to bring together a variety of stakeholder groups annually to discuss public policy issues regarding the Internet. Some of the key issues confronting the 13th annual IGF were gender and access, cyber security, and artificial intelligence. The Internet Governance Forum is a prime example of how important multistakeholder internet governance is, as it is a forum for a variety of stakeholders to come together and discuss best practices and a way forward in today’s digital world.

The session I tuned into from this year’s IGF was titled “Hack the Hate: Empower Society to Face Hate Speech.” I was intrigued by the title and found that it was especially important that this topic be discussed in today’s day and age. Increasingly, we are hearing stories of people using the internet- social media specifically- to spread messages of hate. While the advancements made regarding the Internet have opened the doors for many positive developments, there are undoubtedly consequences of it as well. This is why I was drawn to the IGF session addressing hate speech.

The session began with a discussion of the rise of hate crime statistics and the plummeting of the global peace index indicator that addresses the acceptance of the rights of others. The conversation revolved around what collaborative efforts are needed to mobilize civil society to ‘compete’ with those on the internet who are trying to spread hate, as well as education and and the longer term challenge of eradicating this issue. The theme and contents of this session are an example of why both the Internet Governance Form and multistakeholder internet governance are important- they allow for a variety of actors to come together and discuss how to solve the most pressing issues regarding the internet and our world today.

 

References

Internet Society. (n.d.). Internet Governance – Why the Multistakeholder Approach Works. Retrieved from https://www.internetsociety.org/resources/doc/2016/internet-governance-why-the-multistakeholder-approach-works/

Opportunities and Limitations in Global Strategic Frameworks

Global Strategic Frameworks such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals can be instrumental in the international community’s efforts to work towards solving some of the grand challenges that are faced by the developing world. However, it is important to recognize and learn from their limitations.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ran from 2000 to 2015 posed a grand challenge to the international development community to solve the issues which were recognized as grand challenges. While the MDGs were successful in that they had clearly defined targets and indicators and were quantifiable and measurable, they had many shortcomings. The eight MDGs- to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; to achieve universal primary education; to promote gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; to improve maternal health; to combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases; to ensure environmental sustainability; and to develop a global partnership for development- lacked specificity and attainable short-term goals. They were also marked by a Western bias and assumed that one size fits all when it comes to international development, which, as we have discussed throughout this course, could not be further from the truth. The MDGs failed to take varying cultural contexts into consideration as a result of this assumption. Finally, one of the most notable shortcomings of the MDGs, especially for the context of this course, was the lack of mention of persons with disabilities in any of the MDGs.

Though the MDGs had many limitations, this provided opportunities for the international community to improve upon them. This paved the way to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are set to run from 2015 until 2030. Some of the most prominent differences between the MDGs and the SDGs are that the SDGs contain 11 specific references to persons with disabilities, language on vulnerable populations, and a focus on sustainable development ‘for all.’ There are undoubtedly limitations that exist within the SDGs, though I do not think we will get a firm grasp on those until further into the Sustainable Development Agenda. I believe that it is most important to recognize that no global strategic framework is going to be perfect and solve all of the world’s most pressing challenges. However, they do provide opportunities for the international community to come together to work towards addressing these challenges.

Inclusive Education

It is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “everyone has the right to education.” Education also plays an integral role in social and economic development. It is therefore essential that access to education is available to all, and this is addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals which will run until 2030. Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.”

Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities addresses the need for inclusive education. State Parties to the Convention acknowledge that persons with disabilities have the right to education. Article 24 also states that State Parties must ensure “that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability” and that persons with disabilities are able to access quality and inclusive education with reasonable accommodations when necessary in order to be able to access in an equal manner with others in their community. These inclusive education systems must be geared towards the development of persons with disabilities to their fullest potential, and ensuring that persons with disability are able to freely participate in society.

As one of the grand challenges concerning disability and development, inclusive education requires collaboration and cooperation from a wide range of actors. As part of a joint effort to facilitate the implementation of the CRPD, UNESCO and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict) created a ‘Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities.’ The main objective of this initiative was promote the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for learners with disabilities. This initiative is an excellent example of how important cooperation is in working towards the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing global grand challenges such as inclusive education.

The Model Policy’s main intention is to “assist Member States in the process of developing policy in order to achieve the wider goal of inclusive education across all educational sectors and settings.” This can be so valuable to a state such as Cote d’Ivoire, which I am looking at for my capstone project, which does not have a good history of including persons with disabilities. The Model Policy for Inclusive ICTs in Education for Persons with Disabilities promotes inclusive education further by making the distinction that it can be applied to all learners who may be excluded from education.

 

Intersectionality

Intersectionality refers to how marginalized identities overlap and interact with one another. It creates an understanding of how intersections of these identities create challenges for those people who experience them. In class we discussed that recognizing that intersectionality exists and is real has an important impact on inclusive sustainable development. Recognizing that these intersectionalities exist make them and the people that experience them more visible which is integral to inclusivity. It also has the potential to, and should, inform policies and strategies related to the Sustainable Development Agenda so that they are taking into account and including intersectionality.

The United Nations Major Groups Framework is something that I discussed in my blog post about the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). I mentioned how this framework which informs the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders High Level Political Forum Coordination Mechanism is a positive thing because members of disadvantaged groups such as women and indigenous peoples are given a voice in the HLPF. However, it is important to note that the Major Groups Framework is not perfect, and while it does have the intention of giving a voice to disadvantaged groups, there is still work that needs to be done especially as intersectionality is concerned. For example, women are a group that are marginalized, and it is important for them to be included in the conversation on sustainable development. However, women with disabilities are grouped into this category and there is therefore not enough visibility given to them because the focus is on women’s issues in general.

As we discussed in class this week, the Major Groups Framework is not sufficient in addressing intersectionalities that exist amongst people who hold multiple marginalized identities. Therefore, there should be a strategy to get the major groups framework to take on intersectionality. The argument that there should be a separate coalition to address intersectionality is a strong one, and I believe that this is an essential step to giving intersectionality the attention it deserves. This goes back to the discussion we had in our first class about Grand Challenges- the grand challenge of disability and development cannot be overcome without collaboration and inclusion of all.

Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Management (DRM)

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) are both essential to minimizing adverse effects from disasters. DRR is a systematic approach to identifying, assessing and reducing the risks of disaster, while DRM involves the application of these DRR policies and strategies in order to prevent new disaster risks, reduce existing disaster risks, and manage residual risks. As we discussed in class, it is imperative to implement inclusive DRR and DRM. Inclusive DRR and DRM take into consideration the needs of all inhabitants of an area when it comes to a disaster. It is especially important in times of disaster that those who are most vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, are being accounted for and that there is a plan to keep them safe.

The United Nations has held three World Conferences on Disaster Risk Reduction every. The most recent conference was held in Sendai, Japan in March 2015. At this conference, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 was adopted. This framework outlines seven targets and four action priorities to prevent new disasters and reduce existing disaster risks, and “aims to achieve the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries over the next 15 years.” (Sendai Framework) This Framework is one of the most inclusive global frameworks on disaster risk reduction, and the conference itself is seen as a ‘gold standard’ for an accessible UN conference.

The Dhaka Conference on Disability and Disaster Risk Management was held from the 12th to 14th of December 2015 to identify concrete actions to take to launch the Sendai Framework and ensure that persons with disabilities are able to participate and contribute meaningfully in all its processes. At this conference, the Dhaka Declaration on Disability and Disaster Risk Management was adopted, which recognized that “disability is part of human diversity and person This diversity and varied requirements need to be considered in all aspects of Disaster Risk Management (DRM).” This declaration is such an important one because it acknowledges the need to consider persons with disabilities in disaster risk management and reduction processes. This is especially relevant and necessary as climate change continues to pose great disaster risks; and persons with disabilities are predicted to be disproportionately affected by it as they make up 20 percent of the population of the poorest people in the world (Dhaka Declaration).

 

Works Cited

Sendai Framework: http://www.unisdr.org/we/inform/publications/43291

Dhaka Declaration: http://www.cbm.org/article/downloads/131683/Dhaka_Declaration_on_Disability_and_Disaster_Risk_Management.pdf

Inclusive Cities, Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

Urbanization is occurring rapidly around the world, as 60 percent of the world’s population is estimated live in urban areas, according to the United Nations World Cities Report in 2016 (UN). Therefore, it is increasingly important that cities are inclusive of persons with disabilities, who make up an estimated 15 percent of the world’s population (Chan and Zoellick 2011). An inclusive city is an urban community with attitudes that value everyone. Inclusive cities consist of accessible infrastructure so that persons with disabilities can have full access to all the amenities and experiences of the cities that every other citizen does. It is so important that cities are inclusive because it is a fundamental human rights issue; persons with disabilities have the right to full and equal access and enjoyment.

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, also known as UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency for human settlements and sustainable urban development. It is currently active in over 70 countries, with projects aimed at addressing issues related to housing problems and slum growth. The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development happens every 20 years. Habitat III was the third, and it took place in Quito, Ecuador from October 17-20, 2016. The New Urban Agenda was the outcome document for the Habitat III, in which the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All states in part:

“We share a vision of cities for all, referring to the equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, seeking to promote inclusivity and ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all” (Habitat III).

I believe that the Quito Declaration in the New Urban Agenda reflects the shift in the international community towards inclusion of persons with disabilities, and is a huge and important step towards inclusive sustainable development. With rapid urbanization occurring, it is essential to ensure that cities are not only sustainable in order to protect the environment, but also inclusive so that all inhabitant can enjoy equal access and opportunities. While there is still much work to be done before all cities are inclusive, I think the New Urban Agenda is huge step in the right direction.

 

Works Cited

Chan, D. M., & Zoellick, M. R. B. (2011). World Report on Disability (p. 24).

Habitat III. (2016). Retrieved from http://habitat3.org/

  1. (2016). World Cities Report 2016. Retrieved from http://wcr.unhabitat.org/