Rio+20, the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development has recognized the critical role of broadband and information and communication technologies (ICTs) in accelerating the implementation of sustainable development commitments in its outcome document, entitled "The Future We Want".
The document which has been ratified by all UN Member States, defines the key principles that will guide the international community in the upcoming years to move the sustainable development agenda forward. The document has singled out broadband and ICTs in facilitating the flow of information between governments and the public, promoting knowledge exchange, technical cooperation and capacity building for all three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. The document further maintains that work should continue towards improving access to ICT, especially broadband networks and services, to help bridge the digital divide; recognizing the importance of international cooperation to enhance agriculture services and improve communication infrastructure, especially in least developed countries and small island developing states (SIDS).
The outcome further recognizes ICTs as a tool for education and knowledge exchange, and for the empowerment of farmers, fishers and foresters. In addition, indirect references to information technologies include promoting access for women, promoting the use of early warning systems and their use for monitoring climate change.
"It is appropriate that Information and communication technologies have been recognized as critical instruments to achieve sustainable development by the landmark Rio+20 conference", said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. "ICTs are unique, cost-effective, inclusive and environment friendly tools to spur green growth and create jobs, promote social progress, and ensure environmental protection and the sustainable future that we want."
The agreement is the result of multi-stakeholder efforts initiated in 2011, built on the legacy of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit). The essential role of ICTs and Broadband networks was supported by the Broadband Commission, the United Nations Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), the Ministry of Communications of Brazil and a number of other government, business and civil society partners. Together, they reinforced the message that ICTs are cross-cutting drivers of sustainable development.