The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. Technology has enormous potential to achieve the SDGs, with new technologies such as blockchain, automation, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data.
The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.
For the UN to deliver better on our mandate in the digital age, we need to embrace technologies that can help accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General (in Forbes, Dec 2019)
Today, progress is being made, but action to meet the Goals is not advancing at the speed or scale required. Technology and innovation can be accelerators to usher in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Goals by 2030.
Explore how UNICC and its strategic partners are finding technology solutions for supporting each of the Global Goals.
ICTs are facilitating the delivery of information and services that promote wages and self-employment, raise productivity and improve the quality of employment generation and poverty-alleviating project. The development of ICTs in remote areas enhance people’s economic opportunities and access to financial resources allows people to access information on government policies, social services, health care and education.
There is still a massive portion of the world population who are undernourished or food insecure, with some of the causes being related to weather, conflict, labor markets, food supply systems, nutrition, social exclusion and livelihoods. New technologies and tools can be used to sense and predict food insecurity trends months before it happens, allowing farmers and food producers to increase their adaptive capacity.
Technology can be used to shift focus from healthcare to health promotion. Health Information Technology supports secure exchange and management of medical information. It improves health care quality, effectiveness, prevents medical errors and reduces costs. Cybersecurity protects hospitals and service providers from attacks and keeps patient data confidential. Diagnosis and treatment can be tailored to patients using big data analysis of electronic records. Telehealth allows patients in rural areas to meet doctors virtually and reduces the overall time and cost of medical attention. Wearable medical devices and remote monitoring tools help assess patient health and reduce unnecessary visits to the doctor’s office.
Technology plays an important role in the future of inclusive and quality education. Ensuring education for all and promoting lifelong learning sets out a grand ambition for education systems around the globe to achieve not just universal primary schooling, but to expand universal education from early childhood to secondary school, while achieving relevant learning outcomes and continuing a life-long learning trajectory for all people.
Technology-based and ICT solutions can tackle key gender inequalities. Cybersecurity supports safe online spaces to report discrimination with strict privacy controls. Mobile apps allow remote delivery of healthcare. Digital literacy and tech skills can enhance women’s ability to earn money and protect their health and welfare, improve their social and economic status.
Over 2.5 billion people currently lack access to safely managed, clean drinking water that can be collected in a round trip of 30 minutes. Sustainable water systems, sanitation and public hygiene have positive impacts on socioeconomic issues such as education and employment, particularly for women and girls. Innovative technologies to create clean water can help protect communities around the world, that rely on unsafe water sources for their daily water usage.
Access to reliable, sustainable energy is essential for economic development, yet over one billion people live without electricity. Emerging technologies have huge potential to accelerate electrification, with advancements in AI, blockchain and materials for solar panels and battery technology lowering the price of energy grids powered by renewable energies.
Young people are disproportionately engaged in low-quality jobs with fewer opportunities for permanent employment. Moreover, two billion people globally are “unbanked” and lack access to formal financial services. When low-income workers and poor families gain access to basic financial services (e.g. savings, credit), they take the first step towards greater security. Simple and inexpensive technologies to support job searches and local banking could quickly improve many people’s opportunities for work and economic growth.
Creating systems and tools to support the three interconnected pillars of infrastructure, industry and innovation can ensure universal availability of three basic services which support economic growth – technology, communication and transportation.
Access to information and knowledge from digital literacy empowers disadvantaged segments of society and can contribute to fighting inequalities and closing the gender gap. Today, digital literacy is key to fully participating in politics, finance, academia, and even the local community. Technology can directly support those possibilities for the digitally marginalized.
Technology supports digitized cities and communities, while managing new challenges like insecure hardware and issues around internet bandwidth and reliance on mobile apps. Applications help manage smart cities, including water and waste management, intelligent transport systems, energy consumption. Internet of Things enhances quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, optimizing resources and reducing costs. Some examples of these technologies include smart lightning, parking management, charging stations, sprinkler systems, heating and ventilation.
Technology has fundamentally changed the way that we produce and consume goods and services. We acknowledge that production and consumption of goods and services drives economic growth and improved quality of life, however we now must do so with fewer natural resources and less environmental impact across. Food waste, e-waste and plastic consumption are some areas where technological support is needed in order to consume and produce responsibly. These technologies would not only help with consumption, it would also help with having a cleaner environment and reducing the effects of climate change.
The impacts of climate change pose significant risks for agriculture, water supplies, health, energy, security and infrastructure. Technologies are imperative to support the integration of climate change measures into national policies, strengthen adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and disasters and mobilizing financial support for developing nations for mitigation and adaptation.
Satellite oceanic monitoring and responsible waterway usage can protect life under the oceans, seas, lakes. Similar technologies can also reduce ocean pollution and plastic waste and preserve fish stocks for future generations. According to the World Bank Group, about 11% of the global population relies on fisheries and aquaculture as their main source of income. Technologies to monitor fishing practices and waterway usage can effectively protect marine life.
Land resources must be protected by reducing ecosystem and biodiversity loss. Biodiversity and a functioning biosphere are critical to health of ecosystems, and in turn, the health of humans. More than 1.6 billion people directly rely on forests for their livelihoods, and many more depend more broadly on forest resources. Desertification, poaching and environmental changes continue to endanger species on land and in water. Satellite and drone technology are some solutions that can be employed to meet this goal.
Promoting peace and justice, and accountable and inclusive institutions is a meaningful way of making the world safer and more inclusive. Reducing violence (particularly against women and children), reducing corruption and bribery, increasing transparency of institutions and access to justice are the main targets to address with technology. While some countries still face prolonged armed conflict, many regions have enjoyed increased levels of peace and security. Technologies can continue to move that trend towards increased levels of peace and justice by developing safe and reliable ways of reporting injustice and violence.
Innovative Collaboration and Capacity Building- Renewed partnership across governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors will mobilize resources to address all the Goals. Increased and continued support for developing countries is fundamental for equitable progress for all nations.
Resources on technology for the Sustainable Development Goals:
- Facts and figures 2019. Measuring digital development, International Telecommunication Union
- Fast-forward progress. Leveraging tech to achieve the global goals, International Telecommunication Union
- Digital with Purpose. Delivering a SMARTer 2030, Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Deloitte
- ICTs for a Sustainable World, International Telecommunication Union
- Inclusion and Diversity: Tech it or leave IT, UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL)
- Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development
- Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies, United Nations
- The Impact of Digital Technologies, United Nations