How technology can help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainability and Innovation Conference in Brussels saw the launch of the third edition of the EU ICT Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Benchmark report commissioned by Huawei, undertaken by Sustainability and supported by CSR Europe.

The event brought together key stakeholders in Europe and beyond including leaders from business, cities, civil society and government to discuss how technology can help towards achieving the UN SDGs to drive sustainable economic growth and development.

The benchmark report clearly shows a high correlation with ICT performance in the EU, as innovation and advances in industrial processes rely on good infrastructure amongst other things.

>See also: Technology: playing a ‘critical role’ in the UN’s SDGs

ICT has the potential to transform the manufacturing sector through advancements such as IoT, cloud and robotics – all of which reduce costs, increase efficiency and drive economic growth. Indeed, advanced manufacturing in the form of industry 4.0 is very powerful.

However, today every business is a digital business. Traditional industries are being disrupted as new business models emerge and replace old. Digital transformation is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing organisations today. The most successful organisations are those who are able to respond quickly to the changing demands of their customers.

Businesses must undergo a profound change, adopt new organisational models and embrace new working methods. We are seeing a shift from bureaucratic and hierarchical organisations run by rules and managers, to a new type of company based on self-organisation and alternating management. It’s called agile leadership.

This new way of working originally emerged from attempts to improve software development and has become the de facto methodology used today. However, we are starting to see organisations deploy this way of working across all their business. This kind of visionary leadership requires embracing a new set of practices and techniques that allow organisations to work more rapidly and effectively and give them a lasting competitive advantage.

>See also: IoT and smart cities: meeting sustainable development goals

In recent global research from Freeform Dynamics, organisations that said they were embracing agile across their business claimed 70% higher profit growth and 50% higher revenue growth. However, technological advances have the potential to disrupt the job market as more roles are automated, so attention needs to be paid to re-skilling the existing workforces as well as, of course, in attracting and encouraging more young people to consider careers in STEM to help address the skills shortfall that Europe is facing.

Digital literacy, skills and inclusion – a key focus of the Digital Single Market – must be a multi-stakeholder partnership that endeavours to facilitate collaboration among business and education providers, public and private actors to take action in attracting young people into ICT education, and to retrain unemployed people.

CA is proud to have signed up to the Digital Skills & Jobs Coalition 2015 and through it’s Create Tomorrow program, it’s employees have worked with over 10,000 young people to help inspire, influence and educate them on the exciting opportunities a STEM career can offer.

But there is more to be done, particularly in relation to the fifth sustainable development goal focused on gender equality. ICT can present a level playing field, with equal access to information, learning, education and healthcare for all.

>See also: Solving one of Ghana’s biggest challenges with an agile framework

Women in tech

It also opens up exciting career and business opportunities for women. Today there is an imbalance in the number of women working in technology and a frighteningly low number studying STEM subjects.

Collectively, the industry must break down gender stereo types, prioritise digital literacy in schools, make STEM subjects fun such as offering code clubs to get girls excited about the world of tech and, of course, provide role models who are key in helping girls imagine themselves in these exciting and game changing roles.

Also, more can be done for women returning to the workplace, who need support, encouragement and new skills.

The good news is that there was full alignment from all parties that a skilled workforce and the thoughtful application of technology are vital, but it will be all the players working together on the Global Goals that will deliver the most meaningful impact.


Sourced by Sarah Atkinson VP at CA Technologies, and Exec Sponsor for Gender Diversity (EMEA) and a Board Member of techUK

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...