The Asia-Pacific region is home to nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population.1 Compared to the rest of the world, this region has the greatest diversity, with the oldest and the youngest civilizations. It includes the most populous states on continental Asia, as well as the sparse and distant island countries of the Pacific. People of all races, ethnicities and religions live here, and amidst great wealth there is extreme poverty. In this region the world’s fastest growing economies coexist with the least developed countries and countries in transition.
The development challenges that the Asia-Pacific region faces are massive. As this module is being updated, the world is in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is having significant social, economic and environmental impacts on all countries in the region. In this crisis, information and communication technology (ICT) has become essential infrastructure, a lifeline, especially as nationwide lockdowns are imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. Without regular access to a suitable device and enough data at sufficient speeds, people are unable to communicate with family members and health workers, and participate in online learning and remote work.
The pandemic underscores the importance of a robust, resilient and inclusive ICT infrastructure, and reinforces why it is crucial that everyone has access to broadband Internet. More than half the world’s population is now online. But access varies hugely according to the development level of countries, the wealth and education of individuals, and gender—fewer women than men use the Internet. The pandemic has clearly exposed the inequalities in Internet access and affordability, or the digital divide across the region. Most of those offline live in low- and middle-income countries. Women, older persons, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous groups, migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, and people living in rural and remote areas are disproportionately without Internet access.
The SDGs offer a roadmap to tackle this global crisis, ensuring that COVID-19 recovery leads to more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient to pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided opportunities to rethink and promote more resilient and sustainable development practices.
This module examines the linkage between ICTs and sustainable development, and the practice of ICTs for development (ICTD). This practice focuses on the meaningful application of ICTs—particularly computer, web-based, mobile and other digital technologies2—to achieve the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific. This module is part of the Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders module series that has been developed by the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT) for:
- 1Policymakers at the national and local government levels who are responsible for ICT policymaking;
- Government officials responsible for the development and implementation of ICT-based applications; and
- Managers in the public sector seeking to employ ICT tools for project management.
This module is intended to provide a broad overview and introduce key points for using ICTs for the development of more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies and societies. The module is divided into four sections. The first section provides an overview of sustainable development and the SDGs. The second section introduces current ICT trends. The third section explores, through a discussion of selected case studies, ICT applications to achieve each SDG, and the fourth section looks at ways ICTs are integrated into national development policies and plans to achieve the SDGs.
The module aims to:
- Introduce the concept of sustainable development and the SDGs;
- Highlight the role of ICTs in achieving the SDGs;
- Discuss the trends in the development of ICTs;
- Provide an overview of the challenges related to the use of ICTs for sustainable development;
- Draw attention to the digital divide;
- Foster a better understanding of how ICTs can be used to achieve sustainable development;
- Feature good practices and lessons learned from the case studies;
- Explain how ICTs are integrated into national development policies and plans to achieve the SDGs;
- Explore the main factors that determine the failure and success of using ICTs to achieve the SDGs; and
- Pinpoint issues to consider when planning ICT interventions to achieve the SDGs.
After working on this module, readers should be able to:
- Provide a rationale for the use of ICTs to achieve the SDGs;
- Cite and discuss examples of ICT applications to achieve each SDG;
- Discuss challenges in the effective application of ICTs for sustainable development and measures to address them;
- Highlight good practices and lessons learned from the application of ICTs for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific; and
- Identify key principles and issues to consider in the design and implementation of ICTs for sustainable development programmes and projects.