Sustainable Development Goals: How digital technology can deliver a SMARTer 2030

Deloitte and GeSI launch a report on the impact of digital technology on the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 SDGs are part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, made up of 169 goals and targets with the aim to realise equal human rights to all through economic, social and environmental development. The European Union made positive contributions to the 2030 development goals and is currently committed in encouraging, developing, implementing and monitoring the 17 SDGs in its policies and strategies.

Without the proper development and deployment of digital technology, the world will fall short of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopting a “Digital with Purpose” mindset is required urgently to achieve the market transformation that will place sustainability in the foreground. One of our latest reports identifies and quantifies how digital technologies can help governments, businesses, and philanthropic organisations accelerate their efforts to achieve each of the 17 SDGs.

The report

Together with GeSI, the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative, we are committed to delivering a SMARTer 2030 by using digital technologies to close the gap to sustainability targets. In partnership, Deloitte has published an innovative report which illustrates the relationship between the digital industry and the SDGs, outlining a number of critical conditions and actions to maximise the benefits of this relationship to 2030.

This report builds on previous work, research and input from over 40 GeSI members and partner organisations, and a distinguished expert panel. It outlines how technology can help us meet the UN’s SDGs by 2030. It includes:

  • How a “Digital with Purpose” mindset can deliver maximum impact on the SDGs;
  • The impact technologies have now and will have in the future;
  • An exploration of the scope for key sectors to deploy digital technologies for impact on the SDGs;
  • Reflections on the most immediately relevant goals for six major global regions, the progress and the comparative impact of digital technologies;
  • Estimations on the current scale and impact of the ICT sector, as well as projections to 2030; and
  • Actions to deliver a SMARTer2030, focussing on the critical roles for both the ICT sector and related stakeholders in developing and deploying digital technologies to maximise positive impact.

Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the ICT sector

The report illustrates the critical role the ICT sector will play in enabling progress against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is estimated the ICT sector will contribute to 20% of all progress. This critical role brings a variety of opportunities and debates, with just a few listed below:

  • The impact this sector will have is supported by industry growth forecasts of c. 5% pa to 2030, contributing an additional €2.3 trillion to the global economy;
  • This in turn will increase the ICT sector employment by over 45% to nearly 80 million, and increasing R&D by over 50% to €378 billion;
  • The sector is expected to further enable economic growth in the broader economy of between 2.5x – 4x, or up to €10 trillion by 2030;
  • The sector emissions need to be considered against the ability to decrease the emissions in the rest of the economy. This is estimated at c. 2x the change in sector emissions; and
  • Public commitments of key organisations in the sector, together with previous studies, suggest that the emissions footprint could be managed down with the appropriate external environment and interventions.

Overall, to maximise the opportunity that digital technologies provide to our future requires a re-commitment to the UN SDG 2030 Agenda. The digital sector needs to be more inclusive in terms of access to technology, more ambitious in terms of scaling impact and more responsible in terms of its own operations. Finally, there needs to be greater intentionality and transparency of impact, and a better understanding of how digital technologies can be deployed to positive effect whilst minimising negative externalities.

Digital technology is interwoven into all that we do. But digital technology in and of itself does not deliver impact. Rather, it’s how we develop and deploy technology that matters.

Punit Renjen, Global CEO, Deloitte

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