ICT as driver for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

How technology can help towards achieving the UN SDGs to drive sustainable economic growth.

Today marks the launch of the third edition of the EU ICT Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Benchmark report commissioned by Huawei, undertaken by Sustainability and supported by CSR Europe. The report was unveiled during the Sustainability and Innovation Conference in Brussels.

The event brought together key stakeholders in Europe and beyond including leaders from business, cities, civil society and government to discuss how technology can help towards achieving the UN SDGs to drive sustainable economic growth and development. The benchmark report clearly shows a high correlation with ICT performance in the EU, as innovation and advances in industrial processes rely on good infrastructure amongst other things.

ICT has the potential to transform the manufacturing sector through advancements such as IoT, cloud and robotics – all of which reduce costs, increase efficiency and drive economic growth. Indeed, advanced manufacturing in the form of industry 4.0 is very powerful.

However, today every business is a digital business. Traditional industries are being disrupted as new business models emerge and replace old. Digital transformation is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing organizations today. The most successful organizations are those who are able to respond quickly to the changing demands of their customers.

Businesses must undergo a profound change, adopt new organizational models and embrace new working methods. We are seeing a shift from bureaucratic and hierarchical organizations run by rules and managers, to a new type of company based on self-organization and alternating management. It’s called agile leadership.

This new way of working originally emerged from attempts to improve software development and has become the de facto methodology used today. However, we are starting to see organizations deploy this way of working across all their business. This kind of visionary leadership requires embracing a new set of practices and techniques that allow organizations to work more rapidly and effectively and give them a lasting competitive advantage.

In recent global research from Freeform Dynamics, organizations that said they were embracing agile across their business claimed 70% higher profit growth and 50% higher revenue growth. However, technological advances have the potential to disrupt the job market as more roles are automated, so attention needs to be paid to reskilling the existing workforces as well as, of course, in attracting and encouraging more young people to consider careers in STEM to help address the skills shortfall that Europe is facing.

Digital literacy, skills and inclusion – a key focus of the Digital Single Market – must be a multi-stakeholder partnership that endeavors to facilitate collaboration among business and education providers, public and private actors to take action in attracting young people into ICT education, and to retrain unemployed people.

CA is proud to have signed up to the Digital Skills & Jobs Coalition 2015 and through our Create Tomorrow program, our employees have worked with over 10,000 young people to help inspire, influence and educate them on the exciting opportunities a STEM career can offer.

But there is more to be done, particularly in relation to the fifth sustainable development goal focused on gender equality. ICT can present a level playing field, with equal access to information, learning, education and healthcare for all.

It also opens up exciting career and business opportunities for women. Today there is an imbalance in the number of women working in technology and a frighteningly low number studying STEM subjects.

Collectively, we must break down gender stereo types, prioritize digital literacy in schools, make STEM subjects fun such as offering code clubs to get girls excited about the world of tech and, of course, provide role models who are key in helping girls imagine themselves in these exciting and game changing roles.

Also, more can be done for women returning to the workplace, who need support, encouragement and new skills.

The good news is that there was full alignment from all parties that a skilled workforce and the thoughtful application of technology are vital, but it will be all the players working together on the Global Goals that will deliver the most meaningful impact.

Sarah Atkinson is Vice President, Communications, Exec Sponsor for Gender Diversity, EMEA and a Board…


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