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ICTs: key to sustainable development

The ITU Broadband Commission for Digital Development issued a ‘call to action’ to include information and communication technologies (ICT) as catalysts for sustainable development when delegates gather in New York this week to continue negotiations ahead of the Rio+20 conference.

The call to include ICT networks, services and applications as enablers of sustainable development was issued at the start of the all-important second round of negotiations on the proposed outcomes for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). In a world where more people now have access to a mobile phone than to clean drinking water or a bank account, information and communication technologies, in particular broadband connectivity, offer an unparalleled platform to host an array of development services, such as mobile payment systems, e-Health applications, earth observation services and, increasingly, e-Government. Inclusion of a strong reference to the catalytic role of ICTs and broadband in the Rio+20 roadmap will help ensure solutions are found to meet the challenges of sustainable development in a rapidly evolving world where technology is increasingly central to all aspects of society.

The ‘Call to Action’ from the Broadband Commission for Digital Development comes just a few weeks after the launch of its report, ‘The Broadband Bridge, linking ICTs with climate action for a low carbon economy’ in Ohrid, Macedonia. The report presents ten recommendations for policy-makers and global leaders to utilize ICTs to accelerate global progress towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. It also urges leaders to: ‘bring convergence to ICT policy formulation so that it aligns with other policy areas such as energy, health, education and climate in order to maximize impact’. Rio+20 provides a vital opportunity to mainstream ICTs and broadband in achieving sustainable development.

“It is vital that information and communication technologies are given due recognition in the outcome of Rio+20 as ICTs provide the critical technological solutions needed to attain sustainable development for all humankind and the planet we live on,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said. “ ICTs promote the integration of ‘smarter’ and more energy-efficient economic growth, social development and environmental protection; failure to recognize the power of ICTs for development could very well lead to a ‘Future we don’t want’.”

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