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:
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:
After working on this module, readers should be able to:
About the Authors
Mr. John Ure, Ph.D.
Prof. John Ure is an economist specializing in ICT policy, development and regulatory issues. He has been the director of the Technology Research Project (TRP) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) since 1993 and principal author and editor of two books: Telecommunication in Asia: Policy, Planning and Development (HKU Press 1995; 1997) and Telecommunications Development in Asia (HKU Press, 2008). He is currently engaged on an inter-modal transport data-sharing research programme in Hong Kong as a contribution to smart city development. He has authored dozens of papers in journals, book chapters and presentations (see www.trpc.biz for full CV) and is on the editorial advisory boards of Telecommunications Policy and Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance journals. He is now based in Singapore as co-director of the consulting firm TRPC Pte Ltd.
His relationship with APCICT goes back to 2005 when he was commissioned by UNESCAP to conduct a feasibility study, and to 2010 when he presented ideas for a Monitoring & Evaluation Framework for APCICT. In 2019 he completed a 5-Year Review of APCICT’s accomplishments for UNESCAP.
Ms. Usha Reddi, Ph.D. Former Professor of Education and Director of Centre for Human Development, Administrative Staff College, India
Dr. Usha Rani Vyasulu Reddi is an independent ICTD consultant based in Hyderabad, India. She was formerly Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Human Development at the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad. From 1998 to 2006, she was Director of the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia based in New Delhi, India. Her work covered all of the Commonwealth countries of Asia and was focused on providing technical assistance and advice on the application of ICT in education, both formal and non-formal. Until 1998 she was Professor and Director of the Audio Visual Research Centre at Osmania University in Hyderabad. She has published widely in various academic, international and peer-reviewed publications.