New Technologies Empower the UN Sustainable Development Goals


Author: Zeng Lu

New technologies are reshaping the economy at an unprecedented speed, subverting the original way of life, and refreshing our imagination of the future. How will new technologies and digital innovation change international development? What impact will it have on the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals?

Total words2030About4minutes

In China and India, fintech has helped hundreds of millions of rural households access financial services. In Rwanda and Puerto Rico, drones completed the "last mile" transportation of emergency supplies to remote areas. Big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain, these dazzling new technologies are reshaping the economy at an unprecedented speed, subverting the original way of life, and refreshing our imagination of the future.

On November 21, 2020, President Xi Jinping stated at the 15th G20 Leaders’ Summit that all countries should give full play to the driving role of the digital economy, provide new paths for economic development, and use technological innovation and digital transformation to generate new Develop momentum to stabilize and restore the global economy while doing a good job in regular epidemic prevention and control.

The United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Goals call on all countries to take action to promote economic prosperity while protecting the planet. How will technological innovation and digital reform change international development? How will it affect the Sustainable Development Goals?

What do new technologies mean for economic development?

Promote economic structural transformation and enhance productivity and competitiveness.The falling costs of new technologies give developing countries the opportunity to participate in global value chains and climb into industries with higher returns and wages. China has become the world's leading production base for renewable energy equipment, and Brazil is the world's second-largest producer of liquid biofuels for transportation. However, developing countries that lack technology and capabilities need to establish corresponding infrastructure and formulate supportive policies to seek to achieve economic structural transformation and industrial upgrading through new technologies.

 Improve agriculture and food security.The COVID-19 epidemic has caused the number of people worldwide facing food crises to increase to 265 million. Technologies such as big data, satellite remote sensing, and drones make it possible to reduce resource input and optimize agricultural output through precision agriculture. Drones help dynamically monitor and manage agricultural production activities; genetic sequencing and artificial intelligence are used to detect soil quality and improve crop quality; climate prediction models and plant genome data based on drones and satellite remote sensing help predict the development of new crop varieties Performance.

How are new technologies changing energy and climate change? 

Promote energy access and efficiency of use.As many as 940 million people around the world lack electricity supply. Artificial intelligence helps predict wind power generation and deliver scheduled power to the grid. Artificial intelligence and new energy storage technologies realize dynamic adjustment of power supply and demand and solve the problem of intermittent power supply from some renewable energy sources. Interactive smart grids help power companies optimize electricity demand, costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Decentralized renewable energy systems help remote and rural users gain access to electricity. 

Help fight climate change.Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen by 48%. Big data models help analyze the mechanisms and risks of climate change, diagnose and predict the related impacts of climate change. Artificial intelligence distributes and manages energy efficiently, while advances in battery technology promote the use of electric vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Artificial intelligence improves the accuracy of forecasts of tropical cyclones and fronts, improves forecasts of extreme weather, and helps protect people’s lives and property. 

How do new technologies affect social development? 

Increase social inclusion.In 2019, the global unemployment rate was 5.4%. Developments in information and network technologies create new opportunities and promote employment. In 2018, the number of e-commerce employees in China reached 51.26 million. India's Aadhaar financial inclusion program uses big data and biometric technology to provide 1.2 billion people with access to financial services. Some governments are exploring how to apply blockchain technology in smart agreements, digital identity systems, land registries and financial transactions. 

Helping mankind cope with health challenges. In 2017, nearly 4 billion people around the world lacked access to basic medical services. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain help humans effectively deal with health challenges. In Egypt, community doctors and medical experts use information and communication technology to connect to provide patients with high-quality medical services remotely; in Latvia, artificial intelligence technology has achieved positive results in personalized treatment of metastatic melanoma; in Africa, gene drives Technology provides strong support for malaria control and elimination.

 Expand education and learning opportunities.In 2017, 260 million children around the world did not have access to education. Digital platform technology replicates high-quality teaching content at a lower cost. Open online courses enable large-scale participation in learning over the Internet. 3D printing technology, open software and hardware platforms have entered primary and secondary classrooms in developing countries to improve students' learning experience. Some institutions actively promote low-cost and open scientific research equipment in Africa and support African countries in improving the quality of education and research.

 What direct impact do new technologies have on the SDGs?

New technologies can help measure and monitor progress towards the SDGs.Big data and artificial intelligence can be used to measure and monitor the effectiveness of development projects and progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, helping to alleviate the problem of insufficient statistical data in some developing countries. For example, models based on mobile phone activity data can be used to estimate multidimensional poverty indices; satellite imagery and artificial intelligence can use public and non-proprietary data to estimate household consumption and assets.

The rapid development of new technologies accelerates the realization of the sustainable development agenda.New technologies can increase people’s real incomes by increasing productivity and lowering the cost of goods and services; they can provide innovative solutions to help address challenges that constrain economic, social and environmental development and accelerate development; they can support more inclusive forms of social and economic life, and replacing traditional methods with more sustainable production methods. New technologies also provide policymakers with powerful tools for designing, planning and implementing development policies. Technological innovation and digital transformation will power all areas of international development and help measure and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. But does the beautiful-looking new technology also have a dark side? Stay tuned for the next article.


This article was first published on the WeChat public account "International Development Observation". All rights reserved, please indicate the author and source when reprinting.

Comment (2)

  • Xiaodong| December 9, 2020

    It looks beautiful.

  • I'm a soldier| December 11, 2020

    New technologies may seem far away, but they are actually very close to us.

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