Digital technology can have ‘transformational’ effect on achieving the UN SDGs

Without the proper development and deployment of digital technology, the world will fall short of achieving the 2030 SDGs created by the United Nations (UN) four years ago, according to a new report from the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative commissioned to Deloitte.

Published on: Sep 24, 2019 | Written by: Steve Rochlin

NEW YORK, NY, 24 September 2019

  • Digital technologies are capable of delivering transformative impact against each of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to new report by the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Deloitte.
  • The report explores how seven digital technologies could boost progress towards achieving the SDGs by more than 20 percent.
  • By 2030 digital technologies will deliver reductions in carbon emissions equivalent to nearly seven times the size of the growth in the total ICT sector emissions footprint over the same period.
  • CIOs have important role to develop and deploy technology with SDGs in mind.

The report, Digital with Purpose: Delivering a SMARTer2030, identifies and quantifies how digital technologies can help governments, businesses, and philanthropic organizations accelerate their efforts to achieve each of the 17 SDGs. The report considers seven digital technologies which have been chosen as broadly representative of the way digital capability will evolve in the medium term and for their critical influence on the world. These technologies include: digital access, faster internet, cloud, the internet of things (IoT), cognitive, digital reality, and blockchain. Of the 169 SDG targets, 103 are directly influenced by these technologies.

According to the report, which draws on input from academics, NGOs and more than 500 use cases, these technologies, if deployed with positive societal impact in mind, will help accelerate progress toward the SDGs by 22 percent and mitigate downward trends by 23 percent on average. 

The report further finds that by 2030 digital technologies will deliver reductions in carbon emissions equivalent to nearly seven times the size of the growth in the total information and communications technology (ICT) sector emissions footprint over the same period.

“These technologies can pave the way for a number of beneficial activities,” says GeSI CEO Luis Neves. “They can help in connecting citizens around the world; supporting the monitoring and tracking of human impacts on the environment; optimizing inefficient and energy-intensive industrial processes; and augmenting actions people carry out in support of sustainability goals, among many others. That is why GeSI, its members and partners are committed to action in delivering by 2030 the identified societal benefits in this report.”

While the report argues that digital technologies both established and cutting edge can be leading contributors to positive societal value, this will only become a reality if the focus on technological development and deployment is framed by a clear commitment to the SDGs. “The opportunity, both for the ICT sector and the sectors and organizations at the forefront of deployment, is enormous.” 

Over $3 trillion is likely to be spent on research and development in the ICT sector in the ten years up to 2030, indicating huge potential for innovative solutions to the SDGs if effectively directed and as existing technologies mature.

“It’s a global challenge and we’re committed to global solutions,” said James Gowen, Verizon Chief Sustainability Officer and Chairman of GeSI.  “Never before have ICT competitors, partners and peers collaborated in this way. Jointly, we’re driving an agenda aimed at achieving the global goals through disruptive transformation and technology.”

Nick Owen, Chairman of Deloitte UK, adds: “CIOs have a vital role in evaluating when, where, and how to adopt the most pertinent and applicable technologies. They are also uniquely placed to determine how these new tools may shift their business and organizational performance across multiple dimensions—including toward fulfilling the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

There will be two events hosted during UNGA and Climate Week NYC 2019 to support the launch of the report and discuss key findings. For more information, please click on the following links: 

  • GeSI and ICC event:
  • Deloitte and GeSI event:

About Deloitte 

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), its global network of member firms, and their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”). DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) and each of its member firms and related entities are legally separate and independent entities, which cannot obligate or bind each other in respect of third parties. DTTL and each DTTL member firm and related entity is liable only for its own acts and omissions, and not those of each other. DTTL does not provide services to clients. Please see to learn more.

Deloitte is a leading global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services. Our global network of member firms and related entities in more than 150 countries and territories (collectively, the “Deloitte organization”) serves four out of five Fortune Global 500® companies. Learn how Deloitte’s more than 312,000 people make an impact that matters at

About GeSI

The Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is a strategic partnership of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and organisations committed to creating and promoting technologies and practices that foster economic, environmental and social sustainability. Formed in 2001, GeSI’s vision is a sustainable world through responsible, ICT-enabled transformation. GeSI fosters global and open cooperation, informs the public of its members’ voluntary actions to improve their sustainability performance, and promotes technologies that foster sustainable development.

GeSI enjoys a diverse and global membership, representing around 40 of the world’s leading ICT companies and partners with over 20 global business and international organisations such as the

International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the World Resources Forum Association (WRFA) - as well as a range of international stakeholders committed to ICT sustainability objectives to share and develop ideas, launch joint initiatives, and collaborate on a broad range of sustainability projects. These partnerships help shape GeSI’s global vision regarding the evolution of the ICT sector, and how it can best meet the challenges of sustainable development. For more information, see


Steve Rochlin
Tel: +1 703 969 9197

Stephanie Anderson
Deloitte Global
Tel: +1 347 491 0819

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