Considering the importance of digital technologies and e-governance for implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs), this side event explored the ways in which governments could use digital innovation to accelerate progress towards the goals.
First, Mr Enda Murphy (Professor at University College Dublin) addressed the utility of digital platforms for engagement with stakeholders. Introducing an ‘SDG Governance Framework’, he emphasised the need to design the right type of governance system before identifying the technologies that could enable facilitation and engagement.
Next, Mr Thanos Giannakopoulos (Chief of the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library) explained how the UN library uses digital tools to make the information produced by international organisations more accessible and usable. He said that there was a need for better management of digital information, as repositories used to be very fragmented across the UN system. Pointing to the fragility of digital documents, he explained that we usually ‘don’t give much thought about preserving what we generate until it’s too late’. The UN’s digital platform has been created with the involvement of both content creators and end-users and is meant to enhance the transparency and preservation of information generated by the UN.
Ms Geneviève Verdier (Deputy Division Chief, IMF Fiscal Affairs Department) explained how digital technology has been adopted by governments to improve fiscal policy, especially as such tools can provide better data and information, and help avoid inefficient spending and losses in public revenue. She focused on the ways in which digitisation could reduce tax evasion and improve social protection coverage. At the same time, she highlighted that digital tools are not shortcuts to comprehensive reforms, as problems are often not technological, but institutional. In addition, privacy and security controls are necessary, as well as institutional capacity and an awareness that not everyone in society might be connected to the Internet. While governments ‘can’t stand on the sidelines’ of today’s digitisation of society, overcoming challenges will require comprehensive reforms, adequate resources, and international co-operation.
Ms Chandrika Bahadur (President of the UN SDSN Association) explored the transformations in the education sector that are necessary in today’s society, which is characterised by new and evolving knowledge frontiers and an increasing number of interdisciplinary and inter-dependent challenges. Considering the shortcomings of traditional education systems, she highlighted the need for continuous learning and a focus on inter-relationships between topics, actors, local and global contexts, and theory and practice. Digital technology can help scale up education, lower the cost of delivering education, and enable lifelong learning. At the same time, the implementation of technology in education still raises many questions: What is the right pedagogy? How to make digital and analogue means of teaching complementary? Who should be taught, and what skills? She then presented the approach of the SDG Academy, which offers innovative training about the SDGs to different people and in different formats.
Mr Siamak Sam Loni (Manager of SDSN Youth) presented the work of the SDSN Youth, a network of 700 students and youth organisations working towards the achievement of the SDGs. He underlined the potential of young people, who constitute half of the planet’s population, and are often creative, educated, and have a ‘desire to make a difference’. The SDSN Youth provides online training to young people and gathers data on their SDG-related projects, which are summarised in the Youth Solutions Report. However, he noted that ‘digital platforms are not the solution to everything, and it is not just about “clicktivism” ’; hard work needs be done on the ground to make the SDGs a reality.