The Administrator has been asked to chair the first session of the upcoming Broadband Commission meeting which will take place in New York on 21 September. The session will focus on ICTs in the post215 development agenda. It seems some of the Commissioners are unhappy about the recent OWG report in which ICTs are essentially seen as “means of implementation”. The draft remarks highlight the importance of this approach as it in fact highlights the relevance of ICTs for the achievement of most SDG targets. The remarks are below.
There are now less than 500 days left for the achievement of the MDGs, the first set of comprehensive UN development goals agreed by close 200 countries back in 2000. Although progress all round has been impressive we now know that not all countries will be reaching the targets established back then. A new post2015 development agenda needs to factor this in and ensure work already started continues its course and is completed successfully.
The last fourteen years have also witnessed dramatic changes around the globe. Emerging new issues such as security, violent conflict, inequality, economic and environmental crises, to name a few, demand attention globally and should thus also be part of the post2015 development agenda dialogue.
On the other hand, ICT have also evolved quite rapidly in that same period of time and brought forward new technologies, applications and platforms. The impressive advance of mobile technologies, including in developing countries, the emergence of social media and social networks, the evolution of broadband access, and the advances in robotics are shinning examples here.
The rapid diffusion of new ICTs, fuelling on the emergence of middle classes in many developing countries, has created new, open communication channels that give voice to those who had none before. This in turn offers new opportunities to policy and decision-makers to engage with stakeholders and constituents, listen to their voices and factor their inputs into final decisions. Indeed, there is now a new way of doing developing business and ICTs make this possible.
It is with this in mind that the UN launched the MyWorld survey to capture the voices of stakeholders and bring their inputs to the post2015 process. To date, 4 million people have share their view on which development gaps should be prioritized – 48% of them women. UNDP and other UN agencies are ensuring this input is part of the official post2015 process.
The formal post2015 process started over a year ago, led by the Open Working Group, comprised by 70 governments but open to all those others who wished to be part of the discussions. A few weeks ago, the Open Working Group presented a proposal which contains seventeen Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets.
As you are aware, the MDGs had one specific target that addressed access to ICTs as part of MDG8. And looking on how ICTs have evolved since, we can say that this target is on it way to be reached or has been reached if we consider the case of mobile technologies. In any event, the new SDGs have not specified a standalone target for ICTs. Instead, the new development agenda framework suggests that ICTs are means of implementation that can help achieve all SDGs.
Looking back at the Millennium declaration itself, we should note that ICTs were not mentioned at all. So while a target focusing on access to technologies was established, there was no explicit consideration of using and deploying ICTs to achieve all other MDG targets.
We all agree in the Commission that ICTs in general and broadband in particular are a means to an end. After all, the common goal we are all seeking is to improve people’s lives around the globe by increasing standards of living, augmenting people choices and capabilities to control their lives, and ensuring we live in peaceful, resilient societies where long-term sustainable development is achievable.
In this light, the post2015 development agenda presents a great opportunity for us to ensure that ICTs are catalysts that can bring new and innovative solutions to many of the development challenges that the SDG targets are addressing. While certainly no panaceas, ICTs can be very effective on targets that require transactions between governments and stakeholders such as the provision of public services, as well as in development areas that are information-rich such as health and education.
However, this does not imply that we do not need to take any further action. On the contrary. We now need to joint efforts and make sure that the implementation of the SDG targets explicitly take into account ICTs. And here we have a critical role to play by providing not only the technologies themselves but also the know-how and expertise, as well as the good practices and successful cases where ICTs have made a fundamental difference in enhancing human development.
The Broadband Commission can thus play a key role in the process by focusing on these issues and bringing them to the attention of the Open Working Group. Having ICTs as a cross-cutting enabler in the new development agenda is without doubt an important achievement for all of us. And we need to work together to ensure this is the case before the final SGD targets are agreed by the member states.