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Africa could reach sustainable goals by 2030

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The concept of sustainable development goals (SDGs) allows for nationally adapted and differentiated approaches for implementing what is seen as a common and collective responsibility.

The SDGs are intended to guide priorities both for the development needed in the emerging countries and for the sustainable transition required throughout the world over the next 15 years. The SDGs include most of the highest priority objectives of the world’s economic, social and environmental agendas and in that sense achieve a degree of balance.

The individual goals are not, however, so well balanced within themselves.  Some are clearly primarily economic goals, others social and some environmental.  Only a partial integration has been achieved of the three dimensions within each area.  This is a serious shortcoming since the objective must be to encourage a more integrated approach within each area and each subject community.

For example, the health and education communities need goals that fully express the significance and importance of a fully integrated sustainability approach within their areas, including the economic and environmental dimensions as well as the social.

As a concept sustainable development calls for a practical approach which maximises positive outcomes by recognising the interdependencies between the economy, the environment and society. It is about securing long-term success in all three of these areas by working across sectors to deliver integrated and creative solutions with multiple benefits. Sustainable development therefore requires a systems-based approach for achieving positive, enduring change.

A new report prepared by Accenture for the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) indicates how the information and communication technology (ICT) sector can help countries achieve the objectives of the 17 SDGs by 2030. The report envisions how digital solutions will contribute substantially to the three dimensions of development covered by the SDGs.

In the area of improving people’s lives an estimated 1,6-billion people could benefit from more accessible, affordable and better quality medical services through e-healthcare.  Connected road vehicle solutions could save up to 720 000 lives annually and prevent up to 30-million traffic injuries.

In pursuing equitable growth, digital solutions like the Internet of Things and robotics can help bring almost $1-trillion in economic benefits to industries from smart manufacturing and smart logistics.

In terms of protecting the environment, digital solutions could enable the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and drive market transformation for renewables, cutting carbon emissions by about 20% in 2030.

Through the strategic deployment of digital solutions, the ICT sector can act as the catalyst for helping the world’s nations solve critical and complex social, economic, and environmental challenges.

However Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of ITU, emphasises that despite the promise and potential of technology, the world cannot lose sight of the fact that more than 4-billion people have yet to be brought online.

”Connecting the unconnected and bridging the digital divide must be addressed as an urgent policy priority requiring more innovative public-private partnerships and finance and investment models,” he says.

Where governments were once the primary source of development assistance, today the private sector, civil society, academia and donors are all working together to discover, fund and scale up innovative solutions for long-term development challenges.

Some of these solutions have already resulted in transformative innovations that have improved development outcomes.  Building the skills and ecosystem to participate in the fast-growing digital economy is probably one of the most powerful drivers for future employment and economic prosperity.