UN Broadband Commission unveils report on inclusive development

UN Broadband Commission has released Digital Development report which demonstrates how ICT can become a positive force of transformation and a crucial element of any personal development, empowerment and institutional framework for inclusive development.

There is a striking gap in the current MDGs and their inclusion of persons with disabilities. The estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities are still excluded from equitable access to resources (education and healthcare) and as a result persons with disabilities experience disproportionately high rates of poverty.

“The ICT Opportunity for a Disability-Inclusive Development Framework” contributes to a better understanding of the extent to which ICTs can enable and accelerate the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities. It lists challenges that are still to be addressed while outlining concrete actions to be undertaken by each group of stakeholders and a set of indicators to help measure progress towards the achievement of a disability-inclusive development agenda.

Launching the report, Dr Hamadoun I Toure, secretary general, ITU said, “The use of ICT technologies should be at the heart of any strategy to promote the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities. We have the tools at our hands; the remaining challenge is to expand access to these technologies to all and to make ICTs accessible and affordable for persons with disabilities”.

The report highlights that when ICT is available, affordable and accessible, they can significantly improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society.

Web services constitute the access technology with the greatest impact in promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all areas of development be it social networking, teleworking, online educational classes and telemedicine.

The use of mobile phones is instrumental to enable independent living of persons with disabilities (e.g. SMS, captioned telephone, mobile banking services, and access to emergency services). Television is the third-ranked ICT in the assessment, specifically for its use as a tool to access government services and information.

The cost of assistive technologies is still one of the main barriers that prevents many persons with disabilities to fully access healthcare services, benefit all educational levels, be competitive in the labour market and to live independently. Limited availability and use of ICT in general greatly constrains the use of ICT as a solution to tackling development challenges.

Addressing these barriers requires the collaboration of the main stakeholders involved in each sector, as well as concrete actions to be undertaken by each group of stakeholders and relevant indicators to monitor progress.

Governments can play a key role in stimulating the introduction of ICT-enabled solutions adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, increasing the availability of accessible ICTs and promoting the affordability of assistive technologies in social, educational, economic and other domains.

Private sector entities can contribute by increasing research and development efforts, incorporating universal design principles at the earliest stage possible and recruit persons with disabilities in product development departments to develop accessible ICTs.

This report is the result of collaborative input from the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT), International Disability Alliance (IDA), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Microsoft, Telecentre.org Foundation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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