Leave No One Behind (LNOB)

Pulse on the Principles Series

Despite the transformative impact of technology on the world, many people remain digitally excluded and, hence, left behind. Those who are excluded digitally tend to be those who are also disadvantaged and underrepresented in other ways. Leave no one behind (LNOB) is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As a core value of the SDGs, LNOB lays out a commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms; end discrimination and exclusion; and reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities that undermine the potential of individuals, societies, and all of humanity.

LNOB involves reaching the poorest of the poor and those who endure persistent discrimination, so it requires combating discrimination and inequalities in countries that leave certain people and groups behind. Persistent forms of discrimination can be due to class and economic status; race, ethnicity, or religion; national origin and citizenship status; sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC); language and literacy; disability; age; and geography (rural versus urban). When a person holds multiple identities that are the target of discrimination (e.g., a woman who is disabled and also a refugee), the effects of exclusion can be even greater.

This discrimination is often structural—the result of laws, policies, and social practices that cement certain benefits and privileges for more powerful or privileged groups or for the “status quo.” It undermines certain groups’ ability to access services, socio-economic benefits, wealth, status, and fundamental rights and freedoms. Because structural discrimination is embedded in societies and in the world order, it is also ingrained in digital development. Exclusion has been identified in technology platform design, creation, deployment, content curation, moderation, and management. It can be seen in who accesses networks, devices, and platforms; who can find relevant content or services in their own language; and who is heard or silenced on social media platforms. It is also a factor in how data is captured and used to target, surveil, discriminate, exclude, and oppress certain individuals or groups. Structural discrimination across the globe is why we have a “digital divide.”

Digital developers and the Digital Principles community need to address LNOB to ensure that our work does not inadvertently deepen exclusion and cause or exacerbate harms. This paper sets out some of the areas where LNOB does and does not come into play regarding the Principles and makes some proposals for broadening our understanding of this critical concept.

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The Pulse on the Principles series applies the nine Principles to different ethical considerations to help practitioners ensure that their work takes these critical areas into account and to encourage community conversations about the future development and improvement of the Principles.

See other resources in this series on Responsible Data (RD) and Transparency, Accountability, and Governance (TAG).