Intesectionalities in Development

Intersectionality exists everywhere. Within development theory, intersectionality is especially prominent. The meaning of the main word, intersect, can be defined as two or more things passing through each other. The theory of intersectionality is a framework that is centered on social identities. It is a framework that can be applied to a variety of topics relating to development, including gender, disability, poverty, religion, social status, job status, and others. Intersectionality affects everyone because everyone is an individual. Everyone is affected by a set of circumstances that is unique to only that individual person. A person might be deaf and female or unemployed and old. These are important things to consider when talking about development because everyone is in a unique situation and must be treated as such in order to effectively understand how policies and procedures will affect them. A person who is deaf will have different obstacles to overcome than a person who is blind, but a person who is elderly and poor has another set of obstacles. These are things that must be considered when creating policies for inclusive sustainable development.

When I took my course to get certified to teach English as a Second Language, I was taught to teach to the average student in the class – not the best, but also not the worst. It was reinforced that we should provide support, whether that is more challenging homework for the best students or more 1 on 1 time for the students not doing as well, as much as possible. When teaching as a class, it is important to teach to everyone, but each individual must be taken into account to ensure success.

In regards to sustainable development, some of the most common intersectionalities that exist are: gender and disability; gender and development; youth and development; and race, ethnicity, disability, and development. These individual topics are some of the most controversial topics. Gender is hotly debated on every level of the socioeconomic scheme while disability is being worked into policies (because we have long disregarded 15% of the population). Race and ethnicity have been a tense topic for hundreds of years, with racism still prominent today. But these intersectionalities are found in every day life. In sustainable development, we have to take these intersecionalities into consideration when drafting policies in order to be truly inclusive and not leave anyone out. This needs to be done on every level from local governments to the United Nations, with relevant stakeholder groups taking part in the discussion and getting their voices heard.

Inclusive Education

Education is something that everyone should be entitled to; everyone should have access to a good education. The fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is centered around education, with the end goal being to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all. The term “inclusive education” emphasizes that education is for everyone, no matter your background. Rich, poor, white, African-American, Asian, autistic, old, young – it does not matter. Everyone should be able to get a good education.

Inclusive education is much more than providing access to education for persons with disabilities. Girls and women all over the world have struggled for access to education throughout history, something that we can still see in the United States today with the gender pay gap. While many people will look at the term “inclusive education” and think about providing accessible education to persons with disabilities, there are a lot of other marginalized populations that also need to be considered and cannot be forgotten. To be inclusive is to include everyone, no matter his or her background. SDG 4 outlines this by aiming to “ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.” If everyone had a quality educational background, it would allow for opportunities that currently do not exist. The UN continues by aiming to “eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and children in vulnerable situations.”

Education is a key to future success. By not providing accessible education, it limits future possibilities. Many jobs require college degrees, yet without accessible education, many people will not be able to get high school diplomas. The challenge is the process to make education accessible. In many countries in the world, education is free to the citizens of the country, subsidized by the government in order to provide access to everyone. In the United States, however, a free education is unheard of; college tuition often ends up costing about the same as a house. But in the United States, there is a lot of money available for scholarships, especially for first generation college students and other marginalized populations. The world as a whole has come a long way, even in the last few years, but there is still a far way to go. In 2017, the UN updated the progress by giving examples of how far we still have to go in order to achieve the goal of quality education. In 2019, Goal 4 is slated to be reviewed by the High Level Political Forum.

Efficacy of Global Frameworks

Global frameworks are used everywhere and every day. The only way to understand what these frameworks are is to see the examples that we interact with on a daily basis. Examples of these frameworks include the Millennium Development Goals, the replacement Sustainable Development Goals, and the New Urban Agenda. These frameworks affect everyone, as every country that takes part in the United Nations has agreed to accept them. The only way global frameworks can exist and be effective is through partnerships. Everyone must participate and everyone must contribute.

The MDGs were adopted in 2000 with a goal of achieving them by 2015, something that did not happen. Because of this failure, there has been a lot of negative backlash towards the MDGs. The MDGs included the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, and environmental sustainability, among others. Deepak Nayyar, a professor of economics, is one of the biggest criticizers of the MDGs in his article “MDGs After 2015.” He argues that one of the major problems with the MDGs was that they were not specific. They lacked specificity so much so that it seemed as they were not fully planned. The replacement goals, the SDGs, took in this criticism when they were being constructed. The SDGs are extremely specific and have yearly updates available to mark progress. The use of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) as a way to monitor and evaluate the progress of the SDGs will aid in the overall success of the SDGs, both individually and collectively. While these goals are still lofty, they are better structured and defined, which will make them more obtainable in the long run.

Global frameworks, such as the MDGs and SDGs, provide challenges in achieving the intended and desired results. The MDGs failed for a variety of reasons and we are still too far out to know if the SDGs will be achieved or not. Challenges lie within the systems of evaluating progress. With the world being so large and so diverse, it is hard to measure effectiveness. SDG 6, clean water and sanitation, is something far easier to achieve and measure in developed countries. In developing countries, the infrastructure might not be there or populations might be more remote, adding challenges in the efficacy of these frameworks. At the end of the day, someone will argue something went wrong. Someone will criticize some aspect of what happened. Critics will always exist because people come from different background and have different perspectives. What is important is that we do not let these critics shift us from the desired end goal.

Internet Governance

Internet governance is hotly debated in the current world we live in, with people who are adamantly opposed to it and people who believe it is the future. The heart of internet governance has its foundations in technology used to facilitate public policy and shape the evolution and future of the internet. The internet itself is transnational, open, interconnected, and hard to manage. When thinking about the internet, the only real way to provide governance is through a multi-stakeholder approach.

Multi-stakeholder means that no one individual entity will have sole input; it will be a combined effort. The multi-stakeholder approach bases its foundations on the following components:

  • Participation from stakeholders (organizations, governments, individuals, who have a claimed interest)
  • Distributed responsibilities and rights to participants
  • Variety of input from different backgrounds

Additionally, in order for this approach to work, there must be decentralization from the government. While the governments can have some input, they are not to be in charge of regulations. The backbone is the bottom-up process, where the people (the users) of a product, the internet, have the most control and say in what happens. Just as the internet is open and available to everyone, so must be its governance. There is no room for a lack of inclusivity or open-mindedness.

Recently, there was a meeting of the African Ministers of Communication and Information Technologies in Ethiopia at the second conference of the Specialized Technical Committee on Communication and ICT (STC CICT-2). The aim of the conference was to discuss and (potentially) make decisions on a variety of programs that will impact Africans in these kinds of realms. The conference was set to discuss topics ranging from internet access to digital literacy of African citizens. The chair of the committee, Minister Modibo Arouna Touré, stated that “the he Governance of the Internet is a concern to all of us because it is in the heart of economic, political, geopolitical stakes at the national level. For this particular reason it becomes imperative for Africa to become actively involved in the dynamics of Internet Governance, Cyber security, and Cybercrime.” This marks a large occasion, with African nations bidding for their share of global internet governance.

This conference and organization is an example of how regional mulit-stakeholder internet governance is an important step in a more global picture, with representatives from African nations discussing and deciding how to make the internet more accessible as well as wanting citizens to play a bigger role, something only possible if they are digitally literate. The end goal is to be represented on a global scale, but it must start somewhere, and this second regional conference is the beginning.

Digital Divides in Development

Technology is one of the pillars of the future. Access to technology is greatly unequal throughout the United States as well as the world. This is the heart of the concept “digital divide.” I, as an upper middle class white male, have had almost no limitations to what I want in regards to technology. I get a new iPhone every year or two, as well as a new laptop or tablet device. I have access to large amounts of digital libraries through my university, something that many people do not have access to if they do not go to a large, liberal arts university. I live in a place where I have access to efficient public transportation. A lot of people in the United States do not have the access to the technology that I do, let alone the rest of the world. This lack of access to the internet and other digital technologies, something that is extremely convenient and beneficial, is socioeconomically detrimental. It blocks many people from reaching their full potential and staying competitive in this day and age.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration wrote a report in 1995 titled “Falling Through the Net.” That report focused on a disparity between the “haves” and “have nots” in the United States, a prominent digital divide. The report states that “while Americans are becoming increasingly connected, there are still significant discrepancies in Access.” The United States is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, with many new innovations being patented every day. Even though many people have access to laptops, smartphones, and other technologies, many others do not. But how do we overcome this economic inequality and repair the digital divide? This is part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – goal #9 focuses on innovation and infrastructure while goal #10 centers on reducing inequalities within and between countries. The combination of these two goals will help to reduce the digital divides that exist. With less inequality between and within countries, more people will have equal access and opportunities, one of which being access to digital technologies. With innovation and infrastructure, this access will be more readily available and accessible for everyone.

An older report, the McBride Report “Many Voices, One World” (1980), also highlights the major inequalities between countries considered “developed” and “developing” in regards to information technology. Everywhere we look, we can see these discrepancies. In order to overcome them, we have to put the infrastructure in place. Technology needs to be more accessible to overcome these digital divides. The SDGs do well in providing an outline to follow, but now we just need to follow it.

ICTs in Sustainable Development

Information and communications technology, ICT, combines information technology (IT) with telecommunications. The idea of ICT is fluid, constantly changing with the new adaptations and creations in the technological and communications fields. The global interest in ICTs sparked in 1998 when the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) called for the United Nations to hold a summit for world leaders to come together and discuss the up and coming information society and ICTs. This conference was called the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and was held in two phases: the first in 2003 and the second in 2005. In 2015, WSIS+10 took place, a conference that marked 10 years since the original conference and discussed progress and what still needs to happen.

ICTs play a large role in development today and have the potential to have a larger role in years to come. ICTs make every day life more efficient and easier. Radios, computers, and cellphones are just a few of the many ICTs that are a part of daily life for many people. However, there is a significant portion of the population, both in the USA and globally, that do not have this access. This “digital” divide is something that hinders development in many parts of the world. The large goal of WSIS was to develop a framework to combat the digital divide between nations. One of the earlier arguments of this divide was brought forth in the ITU’s “Maitland Commission Report,” highlighting the disparities in telephone access between nations. This continued with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) report “Falling through the Net,” which highlights internet access between individuals in the United States. The former was published in 1982 while the latter in 1995. These two reports were some of the many that set the stage for WSIS.

What if the internet just shut off tomorrow? What would happen? Chaos. Many people depend on the internet, whether for watching movies to sending emails to publishing articles. What these people do not realize is the amount of people that have never seen or used the internet. This is the digital divide that WSIS set out to solve. The outcomes of WSIS+10 highlight the need for a multistakeholder approach to this problem, arguing that the only way a solution can occur is through a variety of partnerships. We still have a long way to go, but often the recognition and acknowledgement of the problem is a huge step forward. We have made that first step and some baby steps after with the WSIS conferences.

Smart Cities and the NUA

The world is becoming more and more urban each year. The vast majority of the world’s population lives in cities, a different case than 100 years ago. Even looking at the top 10 most populous cities, there is over 150 million people, or roughly 2% of the total population, that live between just those 10 cities. That does not include the metropolitan areas, which would inflate that number exponentially. Smart cities are cities that use technology and electronic data to more efficiently manage the cities. These cities are aimed to attract young adults through the integration of information and communications technology into the everyday aspects of the city, such as public transportation systems. Smart cities are becoming more and more prominent every year with more cities adopting smart city initiatives. Some examples of this include Madrid and Stockholm. Madrid adopted a policy called MiNT – Madrid Inteligente (Smart Madrid). Since the adoption of this policy, there has been significant improvement in sustainable and computerized management of city systems like garbage collection and recycling. Stockholm, like Madrid, has implemented citywide infrastructure policies. These include green buildings and traffic monitoring systems. Smart cities will continue to evolve in the years to come, getting more efficient and improving management with each new city.

While smart cities are clear and obvious examples of development, the New Urban Agenda focuses on the development of all cities. The New Urban Agenda is the global standard for sustainable urban development, causing us to rethink how we live in and manage cities. While some of the New Urban Agenda is basic, like providing access to housing and drinking water for everyone, parts are much more complex, like reducing the risk of impact for natural disasters. The New Urban Agenda is one way that the United Nations is using to achieve SDG 11, sustainable cities. With the world urbanizing, the need to address cities is great. The New Urban Agenda is a framework in which governments can look to when designing programs and improving infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank published a report titled “Inclusive Cities” that helps to frame the history of urbanization in Asia. The report states that after World War II, there was a major influx of people in cities due to a spur in economic development. This influx of people put a strain on city planning and development causing a massive explosion in the slums, areas of the city where there is a lot of overcrowding and poverty. The Asian Development Bank highlights the amount of people in Asian cities that live in these areas, which ranges from about 30% to over 50%. This is one of the things that the New Urban Agenda aims to combat, allowing everyone to be prosperous and successful.