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James Thurston

ICT Accessibility






The global trend toward smart cities is exciting.  Smart Cities programs, technologies, and solutions are creating innovative approaches to providing municipal services and engaging with citizens.  But G3ict and World Enabled launched our joint Smart Cities for All initiative because when it comes to the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons, we are seeing cause for concern in some global trends.  Today’s Smart Cities may be making the digital divide larger not smaller.

•   The world is urbanizing.  50% of people in the world today live in cities.  That will grow to 70% by 2050.

•   Technology continues to affect more and more aspects of our lives.  For example, with the Internet of Things 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.  That is up from 10 billion in 2012 and just 200 million in 2000.

•   We know that today’s digital world already is not very accessible to persons with disabilities. For example, according to the G3ict 2016 Global Progress Report:

•   Screen readers are available in the main national language in only 56% of countries that have signed on to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and they are available in minority languages in just 21% of countries. 

•   In just 40% of countries would you find that some (not all) government websites are designed to be accessible to persons with disabilities, e.g. a blind person using a screen reader.

•   Today, persons with disabilities are largely excluded from the global shift to greater reliance on technology

•   Americans with disabilities are about three times as likely as those without a disability to say they never go online (23% vs. 8%), according to Pew Research.

•   Adults with disabilities are roughly 20 percentage points less likely to say they subscribe to home broadband and own a traditional computer, a smartphone or a tablet.

•   Smart cities are booming worldwide.  The value of the global smart cities technology market will be more than $1.5 trillion by 2020

•   These enormous technology investments by smart cities will likely define how we, as humans, interact with technology for years to come. These investments will either narrow the digital divide for the 1 billion persons with disabilities worldwide or worsen it.

•   With support from the Microsoft corporation, G3ict and World Enabled surveyed more than 250 experts worldwide about today’s smart cities and the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities and older persons.  Our Smart Cities for All survey tells us that:

•   Smart cities are failing persons with disabilities according to 60% of global experts.

•   Less than ½ of experts, just 44%, know of a smart city project with an explicit focus on the accessibility Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).

•   Global experts see no clear link between ICT accessibility standards and smart cities programs worldwide.  Just 18% know of smart cities that use accessibility standards. 

On May 3rd, at the Smart Cities NYC ’17 conference, G3ict and World Enabled will begin a new phase of our work to ensure that around the world we really are creating Smart Cities for All.


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