The Impact of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Friday, 21 August, 2020 - 11:42

Social progress is too slow for too many people. Take education for example. Fifty-nine million children do not go to school at all. And in the world’s least developed countries, one out of every three boys and girls fails to complete primary school.
In developing regions, one in ten people cannot read or write, and in developed regions one in six people leave school without secondary qualifications.
Current growth is unsustainable. By mid-August each year, humanity has already consumed the amount of resources the Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year. At the same time, global economies will be wasting an estimated $4.5 trillion worth of material value in 2030 by failing to recycle or recover valuable resources in their supply chains.
The world is heading towards dangerous average global temperature rises. Even if all the national commitments in the Paris COP21 agreement were met, the world would still be on course for an average 2.7°C temperature rise, well above the desired limit of 1.5°C and resulting in more natural disasters, forcing hundreds of millions of people to leave their homes.
Hence, humanity needs exponential development to meet these challenges – development that puts people at its heart and protects our planet. This is where digital solutions and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector come in.

E-learning can enable a huge number of people to gain access to affordable and quality education, opening the door for as many as 450 million people to obtain e-learning degrees in 2030 and vastly cutting the costs of education for everyone, everywhere.

  • E-learning solutions are already heralding a fundamental transformation in learning that could become the norm by 2030.
  • E-learning can be applied to learners at any stage of their lives, from people needing to learn basic skills to remote students and health workers needing technical instruction on how to administer a brand new treatment.
  • E-learning could thereby also improve access for the disabled by reducing physical barriers.
  • The shift towards e-learning allows students to tailor their own learning: from knowledge being delivered to active and personalized knowledge acquisition.

The e-learning shift can be enabled by technologies such as devices, connectivity and e-learning software and apps with different levels of sophistication, replacing an approach that relies 100 per cent on physical presence. Hence, e-learning can help solve one major problem, particularly in least developed and developing countries: the lack of quality textbooks and trained teachers. This will become less of an issue as downloadable learning portfolios with interactive learning units replace, or at least supplement, teacher and paper textbook-centric approaches.  Thereby, education can become more accessible in remote areas, helping to reach target 4.1.
New digital, medical technologies like wearable tech, patient-doctor videoconferencing and biosensors are beginning to enable people to receive diagnosis for medical problems remotely and could easily be applied in developing countries where they could significantly cut the costs of seeing a doctor and – in the process – save lives.
GeSI estimates that e-healthcare could be available for as many as 1.6 billion people worldwide by 2030, a truly staggering prospect. Meanwhile, the fascinating field of augmented reality is actually enabling doctors to train remotely, and some health workers are now being trained in part by mobile phone in some of the most remote parts of the developing world, for example, in Kenyan villages.
In terms of service delivery and achieving target 3.8 on universal health coverage, the ability to diagnose and prescribe medicine remotely also gives health workers and patients much more freedom to receive the right treatment in a way that is convenient to them, saving them a lot of money and getting them back to work faster after treatment.
In terms of rising to the challenge of tackling non-communicable diseases in the developed world especially, wearable tech and fitness apps are allowing more people to understand and prevent conditions more easily by closely monitoring their own health statistics and taking the necessary action to avert or treat conditions, adding years to people’s lives and helping to meet target 3.4.
Reduction of road traffic accidents, the introduction of Car2X, which enables cars to communicate with their surroundings, could prevent up to 60 per cent of road traffic accidents and related fatalities and injuries from happening. With a 100 per cent adoption rate, this could save a total of around 720,000 lives and prevent 30 million injuries from road accidents,44 which would actually overshoot target 3.6.

Deploying broadband infrastructure acts as a booster growth rates (see target 8.1) with a recent ITU/Broadband Commission study finding that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration alone can lead to rises in GDP of between 0.25 and 1.38 per cent, with the highest positive impacts occurring in developing countries.
Accenture analysis meanwhile shows that “digital density” also matters. This comprises, among other things, a country’s adoption rate of digital solutions, as well as the skills, ways of working and regulatory frameworks needed to realize digital’s economic potential. A ten-point increase in a country’s digital density would help certain developed economies gain an extra 0.25 per cent of GDP growth between 2015 and 2020 and certain developing regions gain a 0.5 per cent higher than average annual GDP growth rate over the same period.
E-work will fundamentally change the ways people work in the knowledge economy: from anywhere, at any time. Cloud-based workplace solutions are increasingly important, with positive effects on SDG 8. These can help reduce material footprints thanks to more efficient devises and ICT infrastructure, can lead to double digit reductions in CO2e emissions, thanks to reduced commuting and business travel, and generally benefit employees in terms of time and monetary savings.
Online banking and banking through smart devices, meanwhile, will mean the inclusion of millions of additional people in the financial system, providing previously unbanked citizens with the benefits of modern consumer finance. The increased customer density and professionalization of the banking sector through digital solutions can also help reduce the currently very high interest rates in some developing regions and least developed countries.
33% 61% 41% 46% 19% 81%

On top of this, improved access to digital solutions in general can help, for example, farmers and fishermen in some of the poorest regions of the world get access to real-time price information, enabling them to sell into regional, and even global markets at the best price for them.

Luis Neves, Chairman, Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI)
Rose Stuckey Kirk, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer & President, Verizon Foundation
Sigve Brekke, President and Chief Executive Officer, Telenor Group
carbon economy. And much more is possible by 2030.
Gavin Patterson, Chief Executive, BT Group
Nicholas Davis, Professor of Practice, Thunderbird School of Global Management and Visiting Professor in Cybersecurity, UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy
Derek O'Halloran, Head of Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation, World Economic Forum
Dr. Hesham O, Dinana, The American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP)

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