SDG Digital Inclusion Framework

Media Ethics Lab, edited by Paolo Granata

1977

This framework provides commentary and recommendations on how digital inclusion and digital equity initiatives can allign to and help accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Universal in scope and benefitting from a coordinated effort across all sectors, the framework encourages a digital inclusion approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the aims of: contributing to existing efforts to advance and integrate digital inclusion strategies in the SDGs in order to gain a more holistic and systemic perspective, and provide practical guidelines to further illustrate how an equitable digital access can accelerate the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Media Ethics Lab partnered with the City of Toronto to support the project: “The Digital Access: Who is Underserved and Why”, in collaboration with Ryerson University, University of Toronto, York University, Humber College, and Seneca College. We at the Media Ethics Lab have adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to facilitate our vision of a more digitally equitable, holistic, sustainable, and inclusive world that includes the five pillars for sustainable development: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

Aligning digitally inclusive practices with the SDGs, we have determined that communities must prioritize accessibility within underserved groups by providing digital tools and fostering equitable digital access to lifelong learning opportunities. This approach will increase valuable emerging skills and human prosperity. Furthermore, an equitable and inclusive digital infrastructure strategy will increase sustainable and environmentally-friendly cities and communities that will develop resilient environments and support human well-being efforts.

Summary of Key Findings

IIn 2011, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council defined the internet as an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, stressing that Internet access should be a priority for all states. However, as the Internet continues to advance, a growing number of individuals are being left behind. The Covid-19 pandemic has further revealed the extent of this digital divide. We have the responsibility to ensure everyone in our communities can connect to the Internet. Facing the social consequences of the global pandemic outbreak requires acknowledging digital inequality and building bridges to overcome the barriers to digital inclusion.

From September 2020, student researchers of the Media Ethics Lab at the University of Toronto worked under the supervision of Prof. Paolo Granata to create a SDG Digital Inclusion Framework. Universal in scope and benefitting from a coordinated effort across all sectors, the framework encourages a digital inclusion approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the aims of: contributing to existing efforts to advance and integrate digital inclusion strategies in the SDGs in order to gain a more holistic and systemic perspective, and provide practical guidelines to further illustrate how an equitable digital access can accelerate the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The report examines 24 selected SDG targets and their indicators, which were chosen based on the potential benefits that digital inclusion initiatives bring to them. While the selected targets are those that are most advanced by information and communication technologies, the Media Ethics Lab approached the framework with a holistic thinking perspective. As such, targets were cross-listed in order to identify connections, discover opportunities for cross-collaboration, and ensure that no targets were left behind.

The framework also functions as a practical tool to review how public institutions and organizations are aligning their digital inclusion practices to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:

  • first, by identifying the main issues related to the target that must be addressed by the digital inclusion strategies, while emphasizing who is negatively impacted by these issues (Key Overview);
  • second, by addressing how digital inclusion strategies can help advance this target (Direct Impact) and facilitate this target in connect to other targets (Holistic Impact);
  • third, by recognizing groups, organizations and institutions needed to advance this target in the context of digital inclusion (Key Stakeholders);
  • fourth, by determining how to measure the effectiveness of any strategy implemented (Indicators);
  • lastly, by presenting a successful implementation of digital inclusion strategies that advance the target in hopes of inspiring cities to implement good practices.

As we enter a more digitally inclined world, there’s always something one can do to build a digitally inclusive world for everyone. It’s growing critically important to take a stance in our global community. More than this, however, should public institutions and organizations combine their digital inclusion strategies with the SDGs and their targets, more holistic and equitable results that benefit societies at large could be achieved.

We have the responsibility to ensure everyone in our communities can connect to the Internet. Facing the social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak requires acknowledging digital inequality and building bridges to overcome the barriers to digital inclusion. Our main goal has been to align the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals with digital inclusion strategies using what we have termed, “An SDG Digital Inclusion Framework.”