Participants said digitalization can help resolve sustainability challenges and drive disruptive change.
They stressed that transformation towards sustainability must be harmonized with the threats, opportunities and dynamics of the digital revolution, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The event also highlighted challenges related to digitalization that may have unsustainable effects related to structural unemployment and proliferation of autonomous weapons.
12 July 2019: An event on the sidelines of the 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) addressed opportunities and challenges regarding the digital revolution and sustainable development. The side event was presented by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and The World in 2050 (TWI2050) research initiative.The 12 July event in New York, US affirmed that: the digital revolution is a driving force of societal transformation; references to digitalization are lacking in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change; and transformation towards sustainability must be harmonized with the threats, opportunities and dynamics of the digital revolution, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.
Panelists highlighted that data-driven interdisciplinarity and development of national data platforms, such as the African Open Science Platform, are priorities for greater synergies between digitization and the SDGs. Speakers emphasized ways in which digitization could help support a green economy, calling for technologies that support measuring and monitoring the Global Goals.
The event also highlighted a report released by TWI2050 titled, ‘Digital Revolution and Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges,’ which describes the ways in which digitalization can transform the world. The report aims to bridge the gaps between digitization and sustainability, and outlines six transformation areas:
- human capacity and demography through further improvements of education and health care;
- responsible consumption and production through the adoption of a circular economy approach and reducing demand;
- decarbonization of energy systems through energy efficiency, more renewables and electrification;
- more efficient and sustainable food systems by increasing agricultural productivity and access to nutritional food and clean water, while protecting the biosphere and oceans;
- smart cities development through smart infrastructure, decent housing and high connectivity; and
- the digital revolution as a sustainable development driver.
The event also highlighted challenges related to digitalization that may have unsustainable effects related to structural unemployment and proliferation of autonomous weapons. In the ensuing debate, participants highlighted concerns regarding the speed of technological disruption, as well as the “digital divide” as it contributes to social inequalities. They agreed that digitalization can help resolve sustainability challenges and drive disruptive change, and called for building responsible knowledge societies capable of taking action towards sustainability in the new digital era.
IISD Reporting Services is covering selected side events during the HLPF 2019. [IISD Coverage of Side Event on Digital Revolution and Sustainable Development] [TWI2050 Website]