Taking action on the Sustainable Development Goals
Where better to host this week’s World Economic Forum on Africa with the theme of “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation” than in Kigali, the capital of a country that is realizing the potential of ICT to achieve greater sustainable development for its citizens. And as the technology advisor to the newly launched SMART Africa initiative, Ericsson is helping to drive sustainable development of a more connected and fully-functioning knowledge-based society in Africa.
Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals
ICT offers an incredible platform for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Every goal – from ending poverty and halting climate change to fighting injustice and inequality – can be positively impacted by ICT and even has the potential to accelerate their achievement.
All who have adopted the goals are committed to achieving an end to extreme poverty and hunger, whilst providing universal access to healthcare, secondary education and modern energy services, and making our cities more sustainable and combating climate change. In order to do so, we must leverage existing and widely deployed technologies, such as broadband, but also new innovative services and the improved reach of technological solutions.
ICT as the catalyst
Joint research between Ericsson and the Earth Institute at Columbia University highlights ICT’s role in accelerating achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
ICT&SDG: How Information and Communications Technology Can Accelerate Action on the SDGs is a comprehensive new report published by Earth Institute at Columbia University and Ericsson, in collaboration with ITU and GSMA.
The report includes an assessment of the current state of broadband deployment and looks at how the rapid diffusion of ICT is proving to be a game changer for millions of people. Mobile broadband is the fastest and most global technology uptake in history and, while much remains to be done to achieve universal broadband coverage, approximately 90 percent of the world’s population will be covered by mobile broadband networks by 2021.
The report also details how ICT possesses the potential to accelerate the path towards reaching SDGs. It covers how we are monitoring collective progress towards reaching SDGs, the role of digital identities, and the potential of ICT to positively impact education, financial inclusion, health and energy, and connecting the unconnected.
Also included are recommendations of ways in which governments can ensure that their respective public sectors are fully supported by high-quality ICT infrastructure to enable and benefit from a digital transformation. They include the provision of broadband connectivity of all public facilities, ICT training of all relevant public officials and service providers, ICT-based delivery systems for healthcare, education, and infrastructure, and the deployment of the Internet of Things with remote sensing and control of connected devices.
Just as many industrial sectors are undergoing rapid transformation in the fourth major industrial revolution brought on by digitalization, meeting the SDGs will also require a transformation of society. Economic growth in a business-as-usual context will not be sufficient for success in reaching SDGs. What is needed is a mutually supportive ecosystem on both global and local levels based around technology and innovation.
As a key recommendation, governments of developing nations need to ensure that the entire public sector, including service delivery in health, education, and the provision of utilities, is fully supported by quality ICT infrastructure. In order for technology and innovation to deliver the transformational change at the pace and scale required, three key supporting aspects will need to align: an enabling policy framework, the formation of strong public-private partnerships, and sufficient public and private investments.
Turning intentions into impact
Ericsson’s deep-rooted commitment to the SDGs is well documented. Technology for Good is the concept we work with every day to address sustainable development challenges like climate change, education, health, humanitarian issues, human rights and the effects of poverty. We recently launched our 23rd Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility Report and are turning our intentions into impact in a number of ways. We have already reached an estimated 20 million people with initiatives such as Connect to Learn, Refunite and Ericsson Response and do not plan to slow down any time soon.
This report represents an important call to action by pointing to the need for rapid government, academic and institutional action and policy reform in order to leverage existing investments in broadband infrastructure from a sustainable development perspective.