In our previous article entitled, “Accelerated Diffusion: ICT's Key Contribution to the SDGs", we stated that leveraging Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is crucial to achievement of the SDGs by 2030, especially the universal coverage of key services such as health and education in low-income countries. This will require that we leverage ICT’s ability to accelerate the diffusion of technology. Business-as-usual will not be sufficient.
In “The Road to Dignity by 2030,” the UN General Secretary asserts that “new technologies are unlocking possibilities for sustainable development” – providing solutions that will be crucial for the vision of the world according to the SDGs. ICTs in particular are crucial in making those technologies and their solutions more available within and between countries. In this UN document, ICT is identified as an enabler of development. It creates an enabling environment for the implementation of the sustainable development agenda. We see this in several key areas where ICT:
- Provides farmers better options by giving access to better information on weather, market, pests, fertilizers and insecticides
- Supports mobile banking for millions previously excluded
- Enables health workers to collect information for status snapshots, analyze trends and make quicker projections about disease outbreaks
- Enhances education, connecting teachers and students to better resources and information
- Promotes gender equality by increasing women’s access to health, nutrition, education, training, employment and political participation
- Supports green energy through applications that help manage cities sustainably
Developing the infrastructure towards universal ICT availability benefits the SDGs in other notable ways:
- Fostering national capacity-building capabilities and regional integration
- Delivering important cross-cutting synergies across different sectors
- Providing a model for global partnership by operating in a diverse and inclusive multi-cultural stakeholder environment
THE ROLE OF POLICY
As ICT creates an enabling environment for the public good, public policy in turn provides an enabling environment for the adoption of ICT-based solutions that help achieve the SDGs in key sectors. Governments and institutions play a crucial role by removing barriers to ICT adoption and implementation. It starts with the adoption of ICT in the public sector and with policy support for ICT-based solutions.
Where it has not happened already, government processes (payments, tax collections, procurement, training, human resources, program design, public deliberation, information management, analytics, legislative drafting and voting) should be reformed or upgraded with ICT’s transformative capability. This includes providing policies that will speed the roll-out of ICT infrastructures and service providers, as well as ease the uptake of ICT-based solutions in public services, such as health and education.
ICT IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
Governments need to ensure that the entire public sector is fully supported by high-quality ICT infrastructure, including:
- Broadband connectivity of all public facilities by 2020
- ICT training of all relevant public officials and service providers
- ICT-based delivery systems for public healthcare, education and infrastructure
- Deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) for public infrastructure and environmental management
- Encouragement of universities to scale up education and the incubation of ICT solutions through partnerships with the business sector
- Public-Private Partnerships for ICT-enabled systems
- Deployment of an ICT-based SDG information system that connects the public to public services, public facilities and the business sector
According to the ICT giant Ericsson’s report “How Information and Communications Technology Can Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” this kind of support by governments will enable ICT diffusion in key sectors, such as healthcare, education, financial services, electrification and high-yield agriculture.
National government policies have always been at the center of economic transformation. Thus, the role of policy in the greater uptake of ICT-based services cannot be overstated – for the achievement of the SDGs by their target date of 2030.
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