In addition to being an important technology sector in its own right, information and communication technology (ICT) is important for linking agents in the innovation system. The Addis Agenda promotes the use of ICT, greater access to technology for all and social innovation
In the area of ICT, the digital divide remains stark: estimates show that almost half of all households globally still do not have access to the Internet. Despite the growth in terms of coverage, estimates by the ITU showed that by the end of the 2017, 52 per cent of households around the world still did not have access to the Internet, which means that they will be excluded from the social and economic benefits of connectivity. In least developed countries (LDCs), 85 per cent of households lack Internet access. The gender gap in Internet use has not narrowed globally between 2013 and 2017, and has, in fact, widened noticeably in Africa and in LDCs. Broadband connectivity in developing countries, when available, tends to be relatively slow and expensive, limiting the ability of businesses and people to use it productively.
Growth in the number of countries with National Broadband Plans (NBPs) has shown good progress over an eight-year period, but has effectively stabilized over the past three years. The number of countries with a NBP currently stands at 151, with 38 without. A further seven countries are planning to introduce a National Broadband Plan. It is important to note that even once a National Plan is approved it is subject to a constant process of revision and refinement in many countries. A further number of countries are now regularly reviewing their previous NBP. (For example, the United Kingdom has followed up its ‘Digital Britain’ Plan with a ‘Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy’. The Philippines is pulling together a number of relevant institutions as it looks to usher in an interim broadband plan.)
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The introduction of ICTs in many different realms of life, for instance through progress in the Internet of Things, also raises many issues with respect to trade-offs between privacy, confidentiality and ownership of data for the sake of greater protection, security, safety, better services and efficiency. Accompanying this growth in ICT policy-making, a growing number of countries are therefore also introducing data protection legislation. According to UNCTAD, at the national level, by 2015, 107 countries had introduced legislation to secure the protection of data and privacy (including 66 developing or transition economies). However, in Asia and Africa, less than four out of every ten countries have introduced data protection and privacy laws (a large number of countries are in the process of introducing draft legislation, including Brazil, Egypt, Namibia and South Africa).
Data on ICT skills are hardly available since the indicator was only recently defined. However, some countries have been collecting comparable information, so it is possible to show a range of outcomes. In certain developed countries, 65 per cent of adults could send an email with an attachment, 44 per cent could use basic formulas in a spreadsheet and 28 per cent could download and configure software. Among the limited available data available from the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2016 for developing countries, the lowest percentage of people that could send an email with an attachment was 3.6 per cent and the lowest share of people that could download and configure software was 0.6 per cent. In some developed countries, 27.6 per cent would have written a computer program, while in most of the developing countries where data are available, less than 2 per cent have done so.
Access to the internet and computers in general depends on access to electricity. According to the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, in many sub-Saharan African countries the lack of electricity puts constraints on the use of information and communication technology. Even if schools are connected to the grid, power surges and brownouts are frequent events. Electricity is a poor indicator for Internet access of schools though. Several countries with full electrification report Internet access rates of schools as low as 6 per cent.
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The availability of computers for pedagogical purposes is another indicator with limited data availability. In some developing countries, the ratio of students to computers is 500:1, while in developed countries it can be as low as 2:1. In most countries, the ratio increases from primary to secondary education. National averages however do not provide information about the differences between urban and rural areas. Additional regional data on information and communication technology in education is available from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
According to the WHO, in many developing countries, only 5-15 per cent of people who require assistive devices and technologies have access to them. Production is low and often of limited quality. There is a scarcity of personnel trained to manage the provision of such devices and technologies, especially at provincial and district levels. In many settings where access might be possible, costs are prohibitive.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Articles 20 and 26), the World Health Assembly resolution WHA58.23 and the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities all highlight the importance of assistive devices. States are requested to promote access to assistive devices and technologies at an affordable cost and facilitate training for people with disabilities and professionals and staff working in habilitation and rehabilitation services.
There is a significant lack of data to directly assess progress in the areas of social innovation, social well-being and sustainable livelihoods. This includes the absence of information about social innovation strategies or social entrepreneurship policies adopted by countries.
Advances in this area are currently being conducted by the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD). During the 2016-2017 work period the the CSTD selected "New innovation approaches to support the implementation of the SDGs" as one of its priority themes. As part of the work on this theme the Commission addressed five emergent innovation approaches that can support social well-being and sustainable livelihood, namely: (1) mission-oriented; (2) pro-poor and inclusive; (3) grassroots; (4) social; and (5) digitally enabled open and collaborative innovation: