29 October 2017: The third Sustainability and Innovation Conference highlighted the relationship between information and communications technology (ICT) and the SDGs. During the conference, telecommunications company Huawei launched a report titled, ‘EU ICT Sustainable Goals Benchmark,’ identifying opportunities for ICT to accelerate SDG implementation.
The European Business Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Europe) and Huawei organized the conference, which convened in Brussels, Belgium, on 12 October 2017. Participants reflected on societal and business changes driven by increased access to the internet and social media, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) and how these changes can support increased sustainability. They also considered challenges and opportunities for ICT related to the SDGs, and ways digital solutions can contribute to achieving the SDGs by transforming lifestyles and work.
Countries with advanced ICT sectors are likely to perform well on sustainable development, and vice versa, especially with regard to SDGs 5 and 9.
The report titled, ‘EU ICT Sustainable Goals Benchmark: Harnessing the ICTs to Advance Sustainable Development,’ ranks the EU countries based on the maturity of their ICT sector and their achievements on six SDGs: SDG 3 (good health and well-being); SDG 4 (quality education); SDG 5 (gender equality); SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure); SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities); and SDG 13 (climate action). The report finds a “medium to strong” connection between EU ICT sector development and country SDG achievement, with countries with advanced ICT sectors and information societies likely to perform well on measures of sustainable development, and vice versa. The relationship was especially strong for SDG 5 and SDG 9. Other key findings include the importance of high-speed broadband in achieving breakthrough progress, with the general population’s levels of internet use and other technologies critical to change.
The report also analyzes EU country performance on ICT and sustainable development. Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Germany and France are ranked the highest for their combined performance on ICT and sustainable development. Poland, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania received the lowest scores. Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Estonia and other countries performed higher on ICT than on the SDGs, which the report states may indicate the potential for more strategic use of ICT to support sustainable development. Slovenia, Portugal, Lithuania and Hungary score higher on the SDGs than on ICT, which the report suggest may represent an opportunity for increased investment and improvement in the ICT sector.
The report recommends: developing more targeted EU and national policies to capitalize on opportunities for ICT to advance sustainable development; opening innovation accelerators and hubs to develop and scale solutions to sustainable development challenges; prioritizing closing the connectivity gap and fostering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education; encouraging public-private partnerships (PPPs) and multi-stakeholder collaboration to drive ICT investment and deployment; and exchanging lessons between benchmark leaders and laggards. The report also provides case study examples of how ICT can contribute to promoting gender equality, tackling income inequality and ensuring access to jobs, ensuring sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns and addressing climate change.