Posted: 12 Mar. 2021 5 min. read

Technology for social impact

Three cloud use cases for social good

A blog post by: David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Ranjit Bawa, US Cloud leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Diana Kearns-Manolatos, senior manager, Deloitte Center for Integrated Research.

As organizations face increased global pressure to be social enterprises—with values and programs that align with their workforce’s social impact agendas—technology can help drive this agenda forward. Cloud technology, when combined with other network and computing technologies like 5G, the edge, satellite, IoT devices, and others, can help unlock that potential.

Organizations can make a positive social impact with the right network and computing capabilities, including network connectivity and application access, distributed computing, and high-speed and high-throughput low latency requirements. Three specific use cases have the potential to address significant social challenges—virtual learning, precision agriculture, and urban mobility and transportation.

Virtual learning

While organizations were reimagining digital education prior to the pandemic, after its onset, learning institutions faced increased pressure to create remote and digital learning capabilities almost overnight. This affected higher education and adolescent and secondary education (K–12) in unique ways. For K–12 virtual learning, especially, it amplified existing inequities in terms of internet access that beforehand only arose in lack of equal at-home research, homework, and learning opportunities. Now, it equated to unequal access to education itself. Learning organizations rushed to address this inequity, hoping to avoid potentially devastating costs—one study shows a third of math progress is lost, with the poorest students most affected.1

To help address the challenge, learning organizations can work with communications service providers and cloud vendors to expand network access speed and reliability and embrace software-as-a-service solutions. In doing so, they stand to transform learning, deepen engagement, and innovate education with more equal access across communities, improved virtual learning opportunities, more standardized and personalized learning, and improved skills for postgraduation virtual learning opportunities.

Precision agriculture

Smart agriculture is now a $11.45 billion business, and that number is expected to grow to $30 billion by 2027.2 Cloud technology can help enable distributed computing across tiered edge cloud architectures and centralize data from farm equipment, IoT devices, satellites, and more. Government and commercial organizations can use these architectures to support agribusinesses that are facing food optimization and water conservation challenges in the face of a growing global population and the impacts of climate change. Sensors in the field can send data to both cloud and edge systems for analysis, taking advantage of tiered computing architectures to perform high-bandwidth and low-latency computing at the edge while building historical data repository in the cloud.

By doing so, farming organizations can potentially increase crop production (with better visibility into real-time crop and animal health data), better preserve water to manage scarcity (with smart monitoring and irrigation systems), improve the efficiency and predictability of the downstream food supply chain, and even establish farms in regions that were formerly unsuited for specific types of crops.

Urban mobility and transportation

While autonomous vehicles have the potential to save lives by driving safer and smarter, they won’t be available to the masses for years. Yet, in the near term, mobility infrastructure has the potential to shake up the driving experience. In fact, Deloitte’s Future of Mobility research has estimated that mobility and transportation traffic data could grow to 9.4 exabytes per month by 2030,3 making cloud an important component of urban mobility infrastructure by collecting data from cars, traffic lights, street cameras, and other devices. In this way, organizations can look to track and reduce carbon emissions from cars and public transportation networks, support electrical vehicle charging networks and smart grids, improve waste management, and more.

Making an impact with cloud technologies

Cloud technologies can help to advance a number of social causes quickly. Additionally, by migrating to a cloud, organizations can benefit from the commitment that all of the largest cloud vendors have made to become carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative organizations through the natural resource sharing model that cloud computing promotes.

Deloitte’s research has shown that there is considerable potential business value of social impact which organizations can and should look to measure across six drivers of value creation:

  • Brand differentiation, with good citizenship accounting for about 30% of corporate reputation4
  • Talent attraction and retention, given the cost to hire a new employee is considered to be one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary due to recruiting, orientation, and training costs5
  • Innovation, where, for example, one European city implemented a smart waste management system to optimize underground recycling bin fill levels estimated to save the city more than $110,000 a year6
  • Operational efficiency, if cloud technologies can provide a 2% process efficiency improvement through workload automation for a $500 million business, that is $10 million in potential savings
  • Risk mitigation, as some of the largest global companies reported almost $1 trillion at risk from climate impacts alone7
  • Capital access and market valuation, given financial research has shown organizations with positive social impact records have greater three-year returns and a greater likelihood of “high-quality” stocks8

Technology, and the cloud in particular, can be a key enabler to driving transformative business solutions.

To learn more about using cloud technology to advance social good, read our related report, “Teach the world, feed the world, save the world: Use cases for social good.”

End notes

1. Dana Goldstein, “Research Shows Students Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions,” New York Times, June 5, 2020.

2. PRNewswire, “Global Smart Agriculture Market Outlook (2018 to 2027) - Featuring DeLaval, Deere & Company and BouMatic Among Others,” July 15, 2020.

3. David Smud et al., Connecting the future of mobility, Deloitte Insights, February 28, 2017.

4. The RepTrak Company, Raising the stakes on corporate responsibility, October 25, 2018.

5. Shane McFeely and Ben Wigert, “This fixable problem costs U.S. businesses $1 trillion,” Gallup, March 13, 2019.

6. Miguel Eiras Antunes, “How a Portuguese City Drives Efficiencies With Innovation,” WSJ, March 1, 2018, https://deloitte.wsj.com/cmo/2018/03/01/how-a-portuguese-city-drives-efficiencies-with-innovation.

7. CDP, “World’s biggest companies face $1 trillion in climate change risks,” June 4, 2019.

8. CP Gurnani, “Sustainability and profitability can co-exist. Here’s how,” World Economic Forum, January 7, 2020.

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David Linthicum

David Linthicum

Managing Director | Chief Cloud Strategy Officer

As the chief cloud strategy officer for Deloitte Consulting LLP, David is responsible for building innovative technologies that help clients operate more efficiently while delivering strategies that enable them to disrupt their markets. David is widely respected as a visionary in cloud computing—he was recently named the number one cloud influencer in a report by Apollo Research. For more than 20 years, he has inspired corporations and start-ups to innovate and use resources more productively. As the author of more than 13 books and 5,000 articles, David’s thought leadership has appeared in InfoWorld, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, Gigaom, and Lynda.com. Prior to joining Deloitte, David served as senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, where he grew the practice into a major force in the cloud computing market. Previously, he led Blue Mountain Labs, helping organizations find value in cloud and other emerging technologies. He is a graduate of George Mason University.

Ranjit Bawa

Ranjit Bawa

Principal | US Cloud Leader

As Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Cloud leader, Ranjit brings the perspective that some of the most powerful opportunities for disruption come when new technology solutions enable the transformation of core operational processes and financial models. It's a perspective sharpened over the course of nearly two decades spent designing solutions for some of the world's most technology-centered enterprises, including leading global financial institutions where technology is the foundation of the service delivery model. Ranjit's educational background—he has degrees in electrical engineering and finance—gives him a rounded understanding of the interrelated dynamics of technology and economics. His early career in aircraft engineering operations steeped him in an environment where every decision impacts a complex, mission-critical system. Today he applies that perspective to help organizations reimagine themselves at every step along the cloud journey.