GeSI, Deloitte Report Analyzes Impacts of Digital Technology Adoption on the SDGs
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The report identifies and quantifies the ways established and cutting edge digital technologies can deliver transformative impact for each of the 17 SDGs.

The report finds that expected adoption of digital technology will lead to the abatement of 1.34 GtCO2e by 2030, as a result of efficiency gains from optimizing processes in agriculture, energy networks and manufacturing and on roads.

The report also illustrates how digital technology needs will vary for each geographic region.

27 September 2019: In advance of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-level Debate and Climate Week NYC 2019, the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Deloitte released a report that outlines actions the digital industry can take to accelerate SDG achievement and maximize impact. The report calls for developing and deploying digital technologies to support the transformations needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The report titled, ‘Digital with Purpose: Delivering a SMARTer 2030 Agenda,’ aims to consider the causal relationship between adoption of digital technologies and the resulting impact on the SDGs. The report argues for a “digital with purpose” strategy to support the transformation needed to achieve the SDGs. A digital with purpose strategy incorporates three components: commitments for all; leadership by the information and communications technology (ICT) sector; and roles for key stakeholder groups. The report argues that digital technologies can drive positive SDG progress in four ways: connect and communicate such as by opening up ideas, opportunities, relationships and information; monitor and track the world around us to contribute to transparent impact and targeted interventions; analyze information, optimize procedures, processes and resource productivity and predict where to intervene; and augment human abilities and autonomate systems.

The report identifies and quantifies the ways established and cutting edge digital technologies can deliver transformative impact for each of the 17 SDGs, with a focus on the 103 of 169 SDG targets that can be directly influenced by digital technologies. Analysis of 20 SDG targets and their indicators shows that deployment of existing digital technologies will help accelerate progress by 22% and mitigate downward trends by 23%, on average. The report elaborates on this analysis through over 500 case studies.

On environment-focused SDGs, for instance, the report underscores the critical role digital technologies play for SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land), particularly in monitoring and tracking progress on these four SDGs. Digital technology, particularly technologies that help automate agricultural, industrial and manufacturing processes, can also help to analyze and optimize energy and material usage across sectors to minimize climate impacts. For instance, deployment of smart water infrastructure could mitigate approximately 22% of the estimated increase in global municipal water withdrawals, compared to a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario. The report further finds that expected adoption of digital technology will lead to the abatement of 1.34 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) by 2030, as a result of efficiency gains from optimizing processes in agriculture, energy networks and manufacturing and on roads. This amount is equivalent to approximately 4% of total estimated CO2 emissions in 2030.

The report also identifies areas where digital technologies can have a negative impact on the SDGs such as by hardening the digital divide, consolidating power of the few over the many, fueling consumption and creating dislocation in the labor markets. The report finds that performance on approximately one-third of SDG targets analyzed is anticipated to decline even after increased technology adoption. For example, although digital technology is predicted to positively impact most SDG 14 targets, the report suggests that digital technologies may facilitate further inequalities among small fisheries and communities without access to technology to improve fisheries management and access market information, therefore limiting their participation in the supply chain. In addition, monitoring ocean health and pollution relies on remote sensors, which may result in e-waste in marine areas, among other negative impacts.

The report also illustrates how digital technology needs will vary for each geographic region. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), for example, cloud technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) can hep reduce food loss in the supply chain (SDG 12) and enable more sustainable forest management (SDG 15). In North America, digital access, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT can support more sustainable water resource use (SDG 6) and improve energy efficiency (SDG 7).

The report concludes with a call for all organizations and individuals to make four universal commitments to: re-commit to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to understanding and promoting the SDGs, including as context to decision making; state their intended SDG impact, including a specific commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030; embrace transparency and collaboration; and harness digital technologies to support these commitments. The report outlines key commitments for leadership by the ICT sector and roles for key stakeholders, including governments, institutional investors, business and partner sectors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and citizens.

GeSI and Deloitte hosted a discussion on the report recommendations on 27 September in New York, US. [GeSI Press Release] [Deloitte Press Release] [GeSI Event Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Guest Article on Report][Video overview of the report]


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