The ICT Sector and the Global Connectivity System: A sustainable development overview

By Tony Vetter, Heather Creech on January 20, 2009

In 2007, IISD published a collection of papers on Internet Governance and Sustainable Development: Towards a Common Agenda, as a preliminary investigation into the linkages between these two domains. In undertaking this review, we realized that stakeholders in these domains held different perspectives on what constituted the "Internet sector" and, possibly more broadly, the "information and communications technologies [ICT] sector." Without greater clarity and definition provided by a sector approach, we found it problematic to begin to address questions around who would be in a position to work for greater synergies between ICTs, the management of the infrastructure and content we know as the Internet, and their role in contributing to, or moving the world further away from, sustainable development.

This broad group of actors involved in the production of hardware, software, communications infrastructure, standards, policies, content, collaboration and networking is potentially more complex than other sectors with which the sustainable development community has engaged in the past, including extractive industries, the energy sector, agriculture, health and so forth. Participation from the ICT industry in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has shifted away from the traditional hardware and software manufacturers; but has increased slightly from the telecommunications sector. Within one of the few sustainable-development-focused ICT industry associations, the Global E-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), there is room for "any company or organization which, as a principal part of its business, provides a service for the point to point transmission of voice, data or moving images over a fixed, Internet, mobile or personal communication network, or is a supplier of equipment which is an integral component of the communication network infrastructure,"[1] but not necessarily room for those that serve to manage the infrastructure through the development of standards and protocols, or for those who provide content and applications as part of their social engagement within and through the infrastructure.

This paper is our first effort to gain greater clarity on what more broadly constitutes the ICT sector and its role in sustainable development.

[1] GeSI membership statement

Report details

IISD, 2009