Information Communication Technology (ICT) can be a powerful force for good. By providing greater and faster access to information, it helps people and businesses be more efficient. In our collective mission towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, it also has the potential to help accelerate progress towards a more equitable, sustainable world.
In this second iteration of Huawei’s ICT Sustainable Development Goals Benchmark, developed in collaboration with SustainAbility, we found once again that ICT is highly correlated with faster and more efficient progress on the SDGs. This suggests that strategic implementation of ICTs can be a valuable and potent tool for countries and communities in achieving the SDGs.
In the report, which looks at a sample of 49 countries (expanded from 15 countries in the first iteration), we found a high correlation (91%) between ICT and country-level SDG performance. Countries that perform well on ICTs, such as development of broadband and cloud computing, also perform well on SDGs, showing improvements in environmental and social issues such as health and affordable energy.
Among the six SDGs we included in the assessment, SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and SDG 4 (Quality Education) showed the highest levels of correlation with ICT, suggesting that digital technology has a high potential to make the most difference on these issues – particularly in less developed countries where small investments in ICT are coupled with significant gains in SDG scores.
The report also ranks the 49 countries in terms of scoring on the joint ICT-SDG Benchmark, with South Korea topping the Benchmark followed by the UK and Denmark. The countries were grouped into three clusters – Leaders (top performers), Up-and-Comers (mid-level performers) and Pioneers (low-level performers) – which represent a spectrum of maturity levels on the Benchmark, each with a targeted set of recommendations.
Looking forward, the report shares insights into some of the potential social and economic gains that can be achieved through continued investment in advanced digital solutions. For example, it is estimated that 5G technology has the potential to further power the digital economy and create an additional US$12 trillion in goods and services by 2023. Likewise, its potential for greater positive impact on sustainable development will be unprecedented – if implemented strategically, using the SDGs as guidance.
While we discuss some of the positive impacts of ICT in this report, more research will help explore the complex landscape of ICT and sustainable development, such as:
- Potential trade-offs or negative impacts of ICT and how to address them while continuing to make strides in sustainable development
- How multi-stakeholder and public-private partnerships can further drive performance on ICT and the SDGs
If you’d like to learn more about the report or to find out how SustainAbility can help your company bring us closer to a more connected, sustainable future, please get in touch.