GeSI Digital With Purpose (Summary)

This report builds on GeSI’s previous work, particularly the ‘Smart’ series; and through research, dialogue with over 40 GeSI members and partner organisations and the challenge of a distinguished expert panel, lays out the following:

  • Digital technologies: an introduction to the technologies explored in the report and an overview of the opportunities they provide to develop and deploy for maximum impact on the SDGs;
  • Impact on the SDGs: the impact these technologies have now and will have in the future, supported by a deep dive which details the opportunities for each Goal individually;
  • Impact on the SDGs – Sectors: an exploration of the scope for key sectors to deploy digital technologies for impact on the SDGs;
  • Impact on the SDGs – Geography: reflections on the most immediately relevant Goals for six major global regions; progress against these and the comparative impact of digital technologies;
  • The ICT sector: the Catalyst for Sustainable Development: estimations on the current scale and impact of the ICT sector, as well as projections to 2030; and
  • Actions to deliver a SMARTer2030: delineation of the critical roles for both the ICT sector and related stakeholders in developing and deploying digital technologies to maximise positive impact and minimise negatives.

Digital technologies could have a transformational impact on our ability to meet the 2030 Agenda. This, however, requires both the ICT sector and the key sectors (or ‘partner sectors’) who deploy these technologies to put this Agenda more intentionally at the centre of who they are and what they do. It also requires a substantially enhanced understanding of how actions lead to impact on the achievement of the SDGs, be they the actions of government, businesses, NGOs, or citizens.

This report comes at a time when the world is waking up, albeit slowly, to the existential challenge it faces from climate change and to the slow progress against the broader 2030 Agenda, which has such profound implications for everyone. This awakening is resulting
in pressure on all organisations from their many stakeholders – not least investors, customers, employees and regulators – to articulate and demonstrate how societal impact is at the core of what they do. The result is that a greater commitment to societal impact is not just
about securing a license to operate, but a critical element of building long-term success, with application to all organisations including business.

It also comes at a time when the ICT sector is viewed by many with distrust, often seen as the source of products and services that harm rather than heal our society and environment. Digital technologies can be leading contributors to positive societal value, but this will only become a reality if the focus of technological development and deployment is framed by a clear commitment to the SDGs. If the ICT sector can demonstrate to the world that it is moving the dial on progress towards the 2030 Agenda, and assumes responsibility to address and prevent negative outcomes that result, the world will substantially benefit and the sector will be assured of long-term success.

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