Report: Digital technology uptake needed to reach Sustainable Development Goals

A host of technology frontrunners including Microsoft, BT and Verizon have urged countries to accelerate the uptake of digital technology, claiming that smart solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT) would be "indispensable" to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), which brings to together some of the biggest companies from the ICT sector, has released a new report in partnership with consultants Accenture which claims that digital solutions can reduce global emissions by 20% and help bridge the “achievement gaps” of the 17 SDGs.

The #SystemTransformation report demonstrates the impact that technology can have in delivering a low-carbon future. The report highlights that as well as delivering a 20% reduction in global carbon emissions; innovative smart solutions can help developing countries deliver the 17 SDG objectives by 2030.

“GeSI is committed to leading the discussion about how the world should use digital solutions to address the challenge of meeting the SDGs,” GeSI’s chairman Luis Neves said. “By making the SDGs GeSI’s central framework for action, we have defined an implementation roadmap that we will continue to refine to guide our priorities up to 2030, and we commit to supporting our member organizations to make this exciting vision a reality.”


With GeSI urging countries to deploy innovative digital solutions, the report has highlighted three “roadblocks” that need to be navigated in order to promote economic growth and mitigate the effects of climate change.

While the report notes that the majority of action would take place in developing countries, major nations will also have to overcome barriers. According to the report, smart technology will fail to reach its potential without the aid of incentivised policies, an enabling regulatory environment and an increase in demand.

The report calls on political and regulatory constraints to be relaxed due to the increased costs and complexity that they currently add to developmental costs within the ICT sector. The lack of capital for infrastructure projects in developing regions would also need to be boosted by increasing investment security and integrated global standards. A lack of digital skills – especially in developing countries – is also impeding the technological roll-out.

“Through strategic deployment of digital solutions, the ICT sector can act as the catalyst for helping the world’s nations solve critical social, economic and environmental challenges,” Accenture’s managing director Peter Lacy said. “Digital solutions also make good business sense, as they contribute to new business models, create markets and help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems in innovative ways.”

Smart solutions

The report notes that more than 1.5bn people could benefit from accessible and affordable medical services through enhanced e-healthcare, while utilising the IoT and robotics would enhance manufacturing and smart logistics to the tune of $1trn. Using technology to drive market transformations for renewables would also cut emissions by 20% by 2030.

By using technology to address all the objectives listed under the SDGs – which were announced in September – the ICT sector could generate an extra $2.1trn in annual revenue, which includes $440bn by connecting an additional 2.5bn people to smart devices by 2030. Smart buildings, eCommerce and online portals would all significantly contribute to both the SDG objectives and the economic windfall.

Gabrielle Giner at edie’s Sustainable Supply Chain Conference

Speaking exclusively to edie ahead of her appearance at the Sustainable Supply Chain conference, BT’s head of sustainable business policy Gabrielle Giner – an active member of the GeSI initiative – called on the industry to work together, along with the construction and transport sectors, to develop and explore the growing potential of trends such as machine-to-machine connectivity, 5G and even e-acquisition as part of ‘Industry 4.0’.

Now in its fifth year, the edie Sustainable Supply Conference equips procurement, supply chain and sustainability professionals across all industriesthe with the tools needed to overcome the multifaceted challenges of creating a truly sustainable and ethical supply chain.

View the full agenda for the conference here and register to attend here.

Matt Mace

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