Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the United Nations Development Goals

Information and communication services need to be tailored to regional demands in our multifaceted and complex world. A viable world-wide connectivity solution needs to adress local demands and must be based on a sound business case in terms of cost, price and customer satisfaction. The United Nations Development Goals ask for affordability of information and communication services around the globe in accordance with regional demand. We can show how integration and cooperation of the terrestrial, atmospheric and space-based communication systems become a key to success.

In 2000, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [1] to fight poverty and achieve human development. The MDGs aims to eradicate extreme poverty, achieve primary education, and improve health. The Millennium Declaration called upon world leaders and international organisations to implement policies to achieve these goals and promoting development.

In 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [2] replaced the MDGs, recognising the eradication of poverty as the primary global challenge. The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda emphasises the importance of human rights, investment in human capital, and infrastructure necessary for development. It states that “the spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress”.

Human Development Index (HDI)

Published by the UN in 1990, the first Human Development Report (HDR) defined human development as a “process of widening people’s choices and the level of their achieved well-being”. The report introduced the Human Development Index (HDI) to monitor human progress by computing an overall idea of economic and social well-being in a country. The HDI measures three dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. Even though it does not reflect on poverty, inequalities, and human security, the HDI is commonly used to monitor the performance of individual countries in achieving the SDGs.

ICT Infrastructure

On the global level, information and communication technologies (ICT) have shaped development around the world by accelerating economic growth and fostering social progress. Over the past decades, countries have increasingly invested in ICT infrastructure to achieve growth and enhance development. By reducing geographical boundaries, encouraging international trade, and spreading knowledge, ICTs provide significant benefits for economic growth. The role of ICT as both medium and platform for cultural and economic exchange has become part of the daily life of millions of people around the world. While more than half of the world’s population has access to ICT, most of this activity takes place in the global North. According to Doong and Ho [3], the development of ICT is a critical indicator for the assessment of the global digital divide, leaving the global South behind.

The International Telecommunication Union ITU emphasizes on the contribution of ICT to achieve the SDGs, especially SDG 9.c [4] and recommends to:

Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries with significant impact on poverty reduction, financial inclusion and improved health.

ICTs are able to achieve results at a scale, speed, quality, accuracy and cost not imaginable just a decade ago. They are means to deliver quality goods and services in the areas of health care, education, finance, commerce, governance and agriculture, among others. They help to reduce poverty and hunger, boost health, create new jobs, mitigate climate change, improve energy efficiency and make cities and communities sustainable. Ubiquitous availability of ICT in developed countries also helps to create equal chances, to avoid the digital divide between rural and urban areas and support a better life with new technologies like the connected mobility.


[1] United Nations Millennium Development Goals,

[2] United nations Sustainalble Development Goals,

[3] Doong, S. H. and Ho, S. (2012) ‘The impact of ICT development on the global digital divide’, Electronic Commerce Research and Application, vol. 11, no.5, pp. 518-533

[4] ITU, ITU’s approach to using ICTs to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,