GeSI Digital With Purpose (Full report)

Digital technology can have ‘transformational’ effect on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals

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Without the proper development and deployment of digital technology, the world will fall short of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created by the United Nations (UN) four years ago, according to a new report by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Deloitte. 

The report, Digital with Purpose: Delivering a SMARTer2030, identifies and quantifies how digital technologies can help governments, businesses, and philanthropic organizations accelerate their efforts to achieve each of the 17 SDGs. The report considers seven digital technologies which have been chosen as broadly representative of the way digital capability will evolve in the medium term and for their critical influence on the world. These technologies include: digital access, faster internet, cloud, the internet of things (IoT), cognitive, digital reality, and blockchain. Of the 169 SDG targets, 103 are directly influenced by these technologies.

According to the report, which draws on input from academics, NGOs and more than 500 use cases, these technologies, if deployed with positive societal impact in mind, will help accelerate progress toward the SDGs by 22 percent and mitigate downward trends by 23 percent on average. 

The report further finds that by 2030 digital technologies will deliver reductions in carbon emissions equivalent to nearly seven times the size of the growth in the total information and communications technology (ICT) sector emissions footprint over the same period.

“These technologies can pave the way for a number of beneficial activities,” says GeSI CEO Luis Neves. “They can help in connecting citizens around the world; supporting the monitoring and tracking of human impacts on the environment; optimizing inefficient and energy-intensive industrial processes; and augmenting actions people carry out in support of sustainability goals, among many others. That is why GeSI, its members and partners are committed to action in delivering by 2030 the identified societal benefits in this report.”

While the report argues that digital technologies both established and cutting edge can be leading contributors to positive societal value, this will only become a reality if the focus on technological development and deployment is framed by a clear commitment to the SDGs. The opportunity, both for the ICT sector and the sectors and organizations at the forefront of deployment, is enormous. 

Over $3 trillion is likely to be spent on research and development in the ICT sector in the ten years up to 2030, indicating huge potential for innovative solutions to the SDGs if effectively directed and as existing technologies mature.

We are proud to introduce this new report, #DigitalWithPurpose-Delivering a Smarter2030, which identifies and quantifies the ways in which digital technologies, both established and cutting-edge, are capable of delivering transformative impact against each of the 17 SDGs. It also clearly lays out where these technologies can have a negative impact.

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