We don’t have a plan B for the future: ICTs and achieving the SDGs

nabarro 2Very early on in my medical career, I saw that children and their mothers got sick primarily because of the conditions under which they were living. I became convinced that if you want to do good for people in our world, you’ve got to focus on their social and economic development, as well as focusing on their health problems.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) bring together the needs of the people and the planet, the needs for sustainable economic growth, and the need for peace and partnership as the necessary elements for the future of our world.

The new development agenda is universal, indivisible, must leave no one behind, and must address the digital divide, otherwise we won’t succeed. We don’t have a plan B for the future.

Pivotal role

These goals cannot be realized without everybody being connected. At the moment, 57% of the world is unconnected. Unless this is remedied there will be a continuing digital divide that will leave the poor, people in rural areas, inaccessible people and a disproportionate number of women and people with disabilities stranded on the wrong side unless “the world is fully connected”.

For me, the mandate and work of ITU is at the centre of all the SDGs, and the world counts on you to help ensure that these goals are fulfilled everywhere.

The SDGs must be approached as an interconnected agenda and must be responded to in ways that integrate how different sectors work. For example, ITU hosted a meeting with WHO recently bringing together people from ministries of health and ministries of information technology; that kind of joint working is increasingly going to be necessary, particularly at the local level.

How ITU can help

Technology cuts across each and every Sustainable Development Goal. ICTs reach into homes and communities that otherwise have no contact with everybody else; ITU can help make sure that no one is left behind. The mobile telephone industry has had a massive influence on improving access to people caught up in humanitarian disasters, for example.

Through its work and network, the ITU can ensure that data is used to track the progress of these goals whether through household data, through individual engagement, or through big data. The data revolution will contribute to the sustainable development revolution and ensure that SDGs evolve from being a vision to being acted on.

ITU can help us to be universal in our approach. How? Firstly because your work is organized in a way that combines the three elements of regulation, standard setting, and development.  Secondly because you demonstrate in both Action and Governance that you can make this work. Your members are drawn not only from Governments but also from business, civil society, academia, and international organizations.  You have experience and expertise of multi-stakeholder action and can offer advice on how this approach can be applied to the full range of SDGs.

At its essence the SDGs are about global interconnectedness accelerating human progress. In this sense the SDGs are for everyone, every country is a developing country. All of us will benefit from being better connected: for this to happen we need ITU and its partners.

Dr David Nabarro

nabarroDavid Nabarro (@davidnabarro) serves as Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change. He works with Governments and other stakeholders to galvanize action on implementation of both the 2030 and Climate Action agendas. He also oversees the Secretary-General’s special initiatives, including Every Woman Every Child, Global Pulse and Zero Hunger Challenge, and the UN Office for Partnerships. David Nabarro has more than 30 years’ experience of public health, nutrition and development at country, regional and global levels, and has held positions in nongovernmental organizations, universities, national Governments and the United Nations (UN) system.

One comment

  1. If the ITU is serious about the SDGs there is a simple first step: recognise that the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database is a public good and should be free and open to all.

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