Government Purchasing Power: A Key to Global Digital Inclusion

Posted on June 26, 2017

Photo of James Thurston

James Thurston

Vice President for Global Strategy and Development of G3ict

Today G3ict is launching a new online resource, the Buy ICT for All web portal, to support global efforts to make the world digitally inclusive for persons with disabilities.

Government spending is a substantial part of the global economy and it also accounts for a significant portion of the global information and communications technology (ICT) market. The World Trade Organization estimates that on average public procurement accounts for 10-15% of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  In addition, governments are typically large consumers of technology.  In the US, the federal government alone buys more than 25% of all IT sold in the country each year.  When you add in state and local governments, the public sector share of IT purchases goes even higher.

We believe that governments around the world can use this enormous spending power to drive the development and deployment of accessible ICTs and support the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities worldwide.

The digital world is not accessible today.  G3ict regularly analyzes progress countries are making in implementing the technology and accessibility aspects of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  The results are not good. Our CRPD Progress Report for 2016 shows a global lack of ICT accessibility that deepens the digital divide for the 1 billion persons with disabilities worldwide.  For example, across the more than 100 countries analyzed in last year’s report, we see that:

  • In just 45% of countries will you find government websites that are accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Just 57% of countries have screen readers available in the principal language.  Even fewer, just 17% of countries, have screen readers available in minority languages.
  • Major universities in just 27% of countries make assistive technologies available to students with disabilities.

We know from experience in the US, Europe, and other countries that the benefits from the public procurement of accessible ICTs can be significant.  Governments are large employers, their investments in accessible ICT products and services help to create inclusive workplaces and support the employment of people with disabilities. Procurement policies strengthen the local technology industry in a country. They lead to greater innovation, competition, and choice for accessible technology. They drive the creation of new development tools for accessible technology and better accessibility training for technology professionals. Procurement policies create positive ripple effects into the broader consumer ICT marketplace.

The the Buy ICT for All web portal we are launching today provides quick access to—and introductory descriptions for—the most relevant and useful resources in public procurement of accessible ICTs. The portal includes national and international resources from subject matter experts in governments, industry, and civil society organizations. It provides curated learning pathways for different kinds of users, e.g. those who need just an introduction to the topic or those who are ready to implement ICT accessibility standards. At the Buy ICT for All portal you can keep up with the latest activities and trends related to public procurement and ICT accessibility by reading expert blogs and following links to news from around the world.

We invite you to explore G3ict’s new Buy ICT for All portal and join the global effort to advance equality and non-discrimination in the digital world.