How we can use tech to score global goals

5 July 2018

It’s official: countries investing in technology drive progress towards development goals, and European countries are leaders on both counts. We can step up that progress by focusing investment on where it matters most.

In a recent piece of research ranking countries by their combined performance on ICT and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Europe grabbed most of the top spots. Seven out of eight leaders are based in Europe (the UK, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway), only surpassed by South Korea. What’s more, Germany, the UK and Sweden rank highest when it comes to SDG performance alone.

Europe’s strong performance shouldn’t come as a great surprise – their leadership on the UN global goals is well-documented, with an all-European top ten featured in the latest SDG index, and Huawei’s own Connectivity Index, published last month, confirms this picture (seven out of the ten top-ranked countries are European).
What’s key here is the relationship between the two, and what this means for future investments and policy. By making full use of this intelligence, we can trigger faster and more targeted progress towards development goals without using more resources.

Three practical take-aways to tap into ICT for a better future

The global goals were agreed to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Economic, environmental and social progress all hinge on ICT. Taking a closer look at what works best and where there’s still room for improvement across Europe provides strong clues about what we could focus on.

  1.  Leading countries should focus on the two goals where they score lowest.
    Compared to other SDGs, performance in the fields of affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) and industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9) could be further improved. The latter is also one of the areas with the strongest links between ICT and development goals, suggesting that digital technology can provide breakthroughs and speed up progress.
  2.  There is huge potential in boosting clean energy, reducing waste and new patents.
    The top-performing countries show the least progress on waste reduction, renewable energy and patent applications). Harnessing ICT to develop solutions to these challenges can help them to further step up progress.
  3. We should focus our attention on ICT uptake among European citizens.
    ICT uptake – measured by the intensity of use and the number of subscriptions – needs as much attention as access to technology and ICT skills. Currently, this is an area where countries, including the European leaders, score lowest. We can do better to ensure that no one falls behind.

While this new evidence provides fresh incentives for prioritising progress in those three areas, it also shines a spotlight on the overall importance of mainstreaming social and environmental concerns into ICT policy. While ICT does not hold all the solutions, it shows great promise for driving progress in in a resource-constrained world.

Accelerating SDGs through ICT – read the full report