How can technology bridge inequalities in education?

 In the development field, it is well known that education is fundamental for development and economic growth. Education for All is Goal 4 from the Sustainable Development Goals. The World Bank’s Education Strategy encompasses these three ideas: “Invest Early, Invest Smartly, and Invest in Education for All” (WB). Learning for all promotes equity and makes it explicitly known that acquiring knowledge and skills should be available to everyone. There are still several barriers and challenges to access remain for girls, children with disabilities, and linguistic minorities from achieving the same level of education as other parts of the population. Despite progress, the gender gap in education still exists: according to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 16 million girls will never step into a classroom (UNESCO). An estimated 62 million are not in school, and 100 million will drop out before completing primary school (USAID). UNESCO studies also indicated that 1-2% of persons with disabilities in the Global South receive an education (UNESCO).

It would be impossible to meet the goal of education and sustainable development without considering these inequality issues. Within the context of globalization, the information society and knowledge economies have come to fruition. Its critical to have education particularly to participate in the sectors of industry, science, global policy formation, and civic advocacy.  How can technology contribute to inclusive education? 

The digital divide can be defined as the increasing gap between underprivileged members of society who do not have access to the internet and those who do (Stanford). ICT refers to technologies that broaden access to information and communication technology. As such, ICT can play a significant role in inclusive education through available learning objects for persons with disabilities. Distributed learning, through being able to learn on your own and having resources that you can use by yourself, is one avenue for increasing access to education through the use of technology. G3ICT, a global organization that was spun off of GAID, is very active working all over the world to increase inclusivity. They produce model policy for countries, by creating templates for how to include persons with disabilities.  WCAG, the current version 2.0, produced a set of guidelines for how to use electronic resources and make them more accessible like screen readers. Technological innovations like ICT can and should be utilized to make a more inclusive education system, pushing us further towards SDG 4: Education for All.

https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs181/projects/digital-divide/start.html

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-90-481-2652-1_6

https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-and-gender-equality

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:22474207~menuPK:282402~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:282386,00.html

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City-Scale Resilience Plans: Implementation of WUF 9

The World Urban Forum, established in 2001, is a conference that covers a multitude of urban issues including rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change, and policies. In 2018, the ninth session of the WUF took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and brought together stakeholders from all around the world to convene on the building, planning, and management of cities. WUF 9 was the first session to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda; the NUA commitments included sustainable urban development for social inclusion and ending poverty  sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all; and environmentally sustainable and resilient urban development. 

In April of this year, the UN-Habitat published a guide on addressing human settlements in National Adaptation plans, and was presented at the NAP Expo 2019. By including urban settlement issues into the NAPs, UN-Habitat believes it will help countries address urban areas specifically in the context of combating climate change. One specific SDG target that is relevant to this is SDG Target 1.5 that states: “by 2030 build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.” As such a complex problem to tackle, making a city resilient to climate change calls for including pre-existing factors, like location, ecology, resources, political history, infrastructure, and culture. Along with all of that, it is so crucial to be inclusive of vulnerable groups in sustainable urban planning. 

With the rapid urbanization taking place all around the world, cities hold immense significance for building and bolstering urban resilience to climate change. Many cities around the world have taken steps to implement resilience plans. For example, Washington D.C. just released its first Resilient Strategy, in April of this year. The plan focuses on two areas, along the Anacostia River and Kenilworth Park. Both of these areas are more vulnerable and at-risk to climate effects, as they are low-lying and flood prone. This strategy also contains broader goals including closing the educational achievement gap, building more housing and more. The D.C. Resilience Plan is a city-scale attempt at pushing us closer to the NUA commitments and SDGs. We can look to cities as a hope for sustainable planning in the future. 

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg1

Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF 9)

UN-Habitat Presents Guide on Addressing Human Settlements in NAPs

Development Theory and Actors: An Understanding of Development

The readings from this previous week delved into the first chapters of Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and International Development Studies by Sumner and Tribe. Amartya gives an initial overview as to what freedom means in development and how current indicators value policies and individual well being. He discussed how evaluative purposes should be based on substantive freedoms that consider functionings and capabilities. Functionings are certain things a person may value doing or being, such as being free of disease. Capabilities are the combinations of those functionings feasible for a person to achieve, and that capability represents the freedom to achieve. Freedom has two parts: the processes that allow for it and the opportunities people have. You can define a more developed society based on how much access to these freedoms (health care, education, employment, etc.) a person has. The World Economic Forum published an article back in 2016 where the New Economics Foundation attempted Continue reading

Breaking Down the Sustainable Development Goals and HLPF

As we have learned in class, the Sustainable Development Goals has seventeen goals — set with targets and indicators — addressing global challenges with inclusive and sustainable solutions for all. To assess the progress of these goals, the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development meets annually and also allows major groups and stakeholders to speak and recommend certain actions during the forum. While Sen’s readings for this past week were prior to the implementation of the SDGs, he highlights certain areas that are intrinsic to freedom and development that are also featured within some of the major goals. He touches upon challenges in development, such as eliminating endemic deprivation and preventing severe destitution, which coincides with SDGs 1 and 2 on eliminating poverty and hunger. He also emphasizes the agency role of women that impacts infant survival, reduces fertility rates, and empowers women through education and employment. The UN has a similar page that also highlights the benefits of economic empowerment for women, including increased organizational effectiveness and growth in businesses as well as overall productivity.

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Technology, Accessibility, and Climate Resilience: Smart Cities

What does it mean for cities to develop in smart and inclusive ways? Many focus on technological innovation, as this is one of the most visible aspects of making a city “smart.” Technology enables day-to-day convenience for people’s lives and opportunities for environmental sustainability in ways that may have not been available before, like solar panels or other green technology. Smart cities are an overall net positive for society across the globe, but it does not come without challenges. Planning and design requires knowledge, money, and extensive research- both scientific and anthropologic. Not only can the building of infrastructure be expensive, but smart technology brings limitations in usefulness and cybersecurity and privacy problems. 

Along with this, the necessity of inclusiveness, particularly with accessibility, must be addressed for cities to be considered smart. Article 9 of the CRPD lays out the right to accessibility to the built environment and infrastructure of cities, including roads, bridges, transportation, indoor and outdoor facilities, and more. The Right to the City, under the HLPF, states that cities should be those places where people enjoy equal rights and opportunities and as well as “to promote the visibility of local and national actions and struggles for the Right to the City at international forums, as well as to advocate for changes in political agendas at the international level and to monitor the implementation of existing commitments” (Human Rights, NUA and SDGs). Technology in smart cities should be used to increase inclusivity, not exacerbate unequal access. This is already being done through applications on our phones, like mapping applications that assist people in navigation to and inside of buildings. 

In the context of climate change and impending natural disasters, inclusive technological innovation must be used for resilience of smart cities. With the potential in cities for climate chaos, ways to facilitate equal participation and management of risks and disaster reduction are crucial and must include all people. Even cities with strong environmental performance share the benefits of smart innovation and burdens like air pollution and heat are shared unequally (WEF). As the size of cities continue to grow exponentially, this inequality will continue to grow as well, unless explicitly addressed through inclusive and smart ways. SDG 11 is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. 

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/12/how-global-cities-are-failing-to-be-inclusive/

SDGs & HLPF

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play a critical part in the international conversation on development and global interactions. In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 17 goals, “which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership.” The goals cover a variety of issues from education to life below sea; all equally important to the betterment of the planet in both an environmental and human context. Further, what is significant about the SDGs is that they are intended to overlap as all issues are interconnected on some level.

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HLPF: Is the “Major Groups” framework useful?

The United Nations’ High Level Political Forum, a platform for facilitation of the Sustainable Development Goals including targets, partnerships, publications, and documents. Described as the “most inclusive and participatory forum at the United Nations,” the HLPF is the process that governs the 15 year period SDG implementation and progress. 

One inclusive aspect of the HLPF are the incorporation of “major groups” and stakeholders other than countries. The framework for the “major groups” came from the 1992 Earth Summit in the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The groups include “nine sectors of society as the main channels through which broad participation would be facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development” (United Nations). These groups specifically include: women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, Non-governmental Organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological community, and farmers. These categories are a little surprising to me, given that they range quite significantly in levels of vulnerability and representation in societal decision-making. Representing workers and trade unions juxtaposed with representatives from business and industry could create a constructive dynamic of criticism and progress for both levels of capitalist society. Creating a separate category for farmers is a way to bring a group that makes up a large proportion of the world’s population, and in some ways constitutes the backbone of human society, to the forefront, and lifts their voices. That is the reason for creating these groups in the first place: making sure that those who may have not had “a seat at the table” before, do now. 

That being said, within the multi-stakeholder environment, there are limitations with this framework. The major groups can attend all official meetings of the HLPF and intervene in official meetings; however, whereas governments can speak whenever they want, as many times as they want, major groups are limited, which ends up placing significant pressure on the chosen spokesperson. Even with a few caveats, the HLPF and “major groups” provide several mechanisms for people to not only physically participate in the processes that govern the 15 year period of the Sustainable Development Goals, but also shape discourse and advocate for their point of view.

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/majorgroups/about