From bits to bytes: Scaling sustainable development

2 May 2016 13:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016]

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), aims to provide ICT solutions for twenty-first-century challenges through collaborative and innovative approaches to sustainability. The session covered not only the opportunities linked to ICT for the sustainable development goals (SDGs), but also the measures needed to overcome the current barriers to uptake. Such barriers include the regulatory framework related to digital policies and technology specifics like investment in infrastructure, the digital divide, and effective stakeholder engagement on different levels (policymakers, end-users, and businesses).

Ms Abigayle Mapanao (ITU), the session moderator, briefly introduced GeSI and invited panellists to describe the current situation focusing on selected SDGs: education (SDG4), health (SDG3), work and growth (SDG8), industrialization and innovation (SDG9), sustainable cities (SDG11), and climate action (SDG13).

Mr Philipp Buddemeier (Senior Strategy Manager at Accenture) talked about a GeSI report which shows that ICT has the potential to enable a 20% reduction in global CO2 emissions by 2030. He said that GeSI wants to make the SDGs a reality. He mentioned that every country has achievement gaps in over 50% of the SDGs, and that digital solutions can contribute to achieving each of the 17 SDGs and cover 50% of the 169 GeSI targets.  He offered expanding broadband as an example where ICT can influence and drive transformational change. He then noted that one of the GeSI targets is to halve the number of road deaths in Africa. He concluded that GeSI has analysed how digital solutions contribute to each SDG and can help world’s population in 2030 of 8.5 billion people to live dignified lives.  

Mr Malcolm Johnson (Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau) gave a brief summary of how GeSI aims to extend the human development horizon to 2030 and looked at ICT-enabled sustainability from a holistic point of view.  He noted that GeSI had made SDGs agenda its central framework for action up to 2030, and that information on GeSI priorities will be shared until 2030 based on SDG achievements.

Ms Joan Krajewski (GeSi board member) talked about the importance of collaboration and cooperation between different actors to achieve the GeSI goals. She noted that collaboration between industries in different sectors (Transportation, Health, Water and Electricity, etc) is essential to fostering ICT innovation. She talked about public-private partnerships as a good initiative to create valuable business ecosystems. She also mentioned three categories of barriers which are hindering the achievement of the SDGs:

  • An inadequate regulatory framework where policymakers are still not aware of the importance of ICT for the SDGs. Policymakers need to understand the potential of ICT.
  • A lack of financial capital and resources to foster ICT innovation worldwide.
  • Connectivity and partnership issues.

Krajewski added that ICT is becoming a necessity and that people should utilise technology effectively. Working on standards, sharing best practices, supporting security, empowering equality, and improving access and inclusion are the main pillars to drive how ICT can help meet the SDGs.

In the Q&A session, the audience was mainly concerned with how to develop strong partnerships between the private sector and government to build infrastructure projects and enable good Internet accessibility, how to increase the ICT footprint, in Africa, and how to overcome the reality on the ground. Panellists addressed the issues of the digital divide, digital literacy, and the lack of an effective multistakeholder involvement as the main obstacles to reaching the SDGs by 2030.

by Hafedh Yahmadi