Here’s how governments can mobilize technology for the SDGs

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Celine Herweijer, Global Leader, Innovation and Sustainability, PwC & Antonia Gawel, Deputy Head of PGPG; Head of Circular Economy and Innovation; ExCom Member, World Economic Forum& Jessica Shannon Global Government & Public Sector Leader, PwC

  • COVID-19 has shown the central role that governments can play in addressing society-wide challenges.
  • In 2021, leaders across the public sphere need to integrate technology solutions into the heart of wider rebuilding and recovering efforts.
  • Doing so will also help reach our Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

As the global community continues to grapple with the wide-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic the hope is that, over the course of 2021, vaccine rollout will finally enable countries to transition from crisis response to ‘recover and rebuild’.

New technologies have played a crucial role in governments eliciting cooperation during the crisis, keeping societies functional in a time of rolling lockdowns, and underpinning solutions across sectors and borders.

The pandemic has further accelerated the pace of digitisation of enterprises and supply chains, connectivity, automation, intelligent solutions and the deployment of tools such as 3D printing, drones, and virtual reality.

And yet, the positives have also brought a social cost: those less digitally ready have been disadvantaged and data privacy and cybersecurity risks have become more prevalent.

As attention, policymaking and investment turns to rebuilding our economies, it is vital that the laser focus on, and cooperation around, technology and innovation continues.

In the latest collaboration between the World Economic Forum and PwC – Harnessing Technology for the Global Goals: A framework for government action – we examine how governments and public sector leadership can drive the uptake of advanced technologies to tackle the wider systemic challenges defined by the UN’s Global Goals (or 17 SDGs) and help us build forward stronger.

This proactive leadership approach will be critical to fostering long-term, sustainable growth and resilience for the 2020s.

A public sector more than capable of mobilizing

‘Governments, perhaps previously and unfairly perceived as slow movers, have showed during the pandemic how quickly they can pivot to meet immediate needs, leveraging the frontiers of technology and human ingenuity in the process.

Examples include Colombia’s rapid distribution of pre-programmed laptops to remote-working students. Then there’s Sierra Leone’s swift development and deployment of a mobile app to monitor deliveries, admissions, discharges and support services at quarantine facilities, in real-time.

The experiences of 2020 showed us that key characteristics that governments need to foster in the months ahead include:

Adaptability: While the global health crisis continues, technological solutions should be designed for resilience and adaptability. The problems of 2021 aren’t yet truly known, but this sense of adaptability can already be applied to challenges on the horizon such as economic recovery and climate change. At the same time, we must build resilience into economies and communities, to future-proof us from more crises.

Swiftness: Governments will need to apply the same fast-paced action to long-neglected problems such as hunger, poverty and job access, and explore how technology can be leveraged to dial up action and swiftly so. We must keep in mind that COVID-19 is not the only social and economic problem associated with health issues, loss of life and economic hardship.

Collaboration: Governments will need to continue building and maintaining the partnerships that have been central to combating COVID-19, whether these are within the public or private sectors. They need to reflect and build on lessons learned during the pandemic, which include supporting innovation and long-term thinking, strengthening supplier relationships, investing in breakthrough R&D, and simplifying procurement processes.

Continued collaboration across all sectors will be essential in leveraging technology to create impact and systemic change at scale for wider challenges, from climate change to biodiversity loss.

So, how can this happen?

In the new Forum and PwC report we outline an action‐oriented checklist to support governments and public sector leaders in enabling the use of technological advancements to deliver progress towards the Global Goals.

There are six key leadership areas vital to unlocking the potential that technology offers, and to manage potential downside risks that can arise.

1. Vision and strategy

Governments need to be proactive in the area of developing and deploying technologies at scale. Any solutions put in place, even with limited resources, can trigger systems-wide change during a time of heightened emergency and tackle multiple social, economic and health issues at once.

To do this, governments need to set an agile, adaptable vision and strategy on what they are hoping to achieve and how they will realise those outcomes with deliberate planning and coordination.

2. Governance and accountability

Delivery of a ‘tech-for-good’ vision and strategy should be supported by the clear assignment of governance and accountability to effective members of leadership teams across government. Developing flexible action plans, offering transparent collaboration groups, and facilitating sandboxing under leadership oversight should all form a part of this.

3. Innovation, and research and development (R&D)

As many novel, technology‑driven solutions for the Global Goals will not be immediately attractive to private-sector investment, governments also have a huge role to play in fostering a supportive innovation and R&D environment.

This can include creating incentives for innovative research and commercial scaling, ushering entrepreneurs through unfamiliar and unique regulatory environments, and investing in sandbox-type enabling environments.

4. Finance for commercialisation

Off the back of successful innovation and R&D, carefully designed finance approaches can create the right conditions for successful deployment into the market. Governments can consider developing new financial approaches to commercialisation, including investing in foundational infrastructure, transforming government procurement policies, and updating financial and market policies.

5. People and skills

The development of people and their skills is an essential supporting aspect in governments’ pursuit of deploying technology for good. Failure to adapt could mean that changes across economies and societies create disruption and dislocation for people and labour markets.

Measures that support the smooth transition of the workforce from slow-growing to fast-growing sectors, while in parallel tooling the right people with the right skills, will reinforce support for change.

6. Collective action and collaboration

Last but not least, collective and collaborative action is essential in driving progress towards the Global Goals. Governments could consider a shift away from disconnected agencies tackling disparate problems in different ways, at both the national and international level.

For example, focusing on solutions such as digitisation can simultaneously bridge accessibility gaps in education access, the digital economy and the shift to telehealth.

Governments would therefore be wise to explore opportunities to establish partnerships and alliances to be able to act jointly, to exchange resources and to deliver the complexity and scale of changes required.

Fostering change

The pandemic underscored the power of a crisis to reveal our capacity for ingenuity, agility and urgency. Let’s not let these characteristics fade as the threat of the ongoing pandemic begins to retreat.

Rather, we can look to apply them over the long-term to develop technologies and solutions that strengthen global resilience and make up lost ground in tackling wider urgent challenges like climate change and nature loss.

Only that approach – that cohesive, concerted approach – can move the needle towards the Global Goals and help us truly ‘build forward stronger.’

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

During the coronavirus pandemic, we must fight for LGBTQ rights more than ever

Final preparations for DCX and IFRA Expo 2019, in association with The European Sting

How two colossal Assyrian icons were recreated using digital tech

Libya: EU efforts should focus on protecting migrants, MEPs say

Difficulties of vaccination against COVID-19

EU takes again positive action on migration crisis while Turkey asks for dear favors in exchange for cooperation

Project Manager – 2024

Social media and the lack of information for blood donation

Commission welcomes provisional agreement on the European Climate Law

The EU to bear the cost of eventual sanctions against Russia

Saudi woman seeking asylum in Thailand ‘now in a secure place’ says UNHCR

A 550 km-long mass of rotting seaweed is heading for Mexico’s pristine beaches

Lack of investment and ambition means Youth Guarantee not reaching potential

This is the life of a refugee: the constant destruction and construction of dreams every day

This is where people live the longest in the EU

Nicaragua ‘crisis’ still cause for concern amid murder, torture allegations: Bachelet

This is our chance to completely redefine the meaning of work

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

Green Deal: measures to step up the fight against global deforestation

These are the countries where most adults still don’t have a smartphone

It’s just electronic cigarette, don’t worry?

Historian Niall Ferguson on what the pandemic means for the global economy, geopolitics – and parties

Coronavirus response: Commission welcomes agreement on crucial VAT relief for vaccines and testing kits

Portuguese Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Romanian Presidency priorities discussed in committees

EU is now giving Google new monopolies to the detriment of European citizens and Internet companies

Mexico: UN chief saddened by pipeline blast in which dozens were killed

The 28 EU leaders show contempt for the European Elections results

Thursday’s Daily Brief: ambulance attack in Libya, #GlobalGoals defenders, human rights in Cambodia, Swine Fever

Pay Transparency: Commission proposes measures to ensure equal pay for equal work

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

Make no mistake: the purpose of business is to serve society

These are the top countries for travel and tourism in 2019

Rare Disease Day: a new EU platform to support better diagnosis and treatment

Spanish and Polish voters are crying out for an imminent European change while US urge now Germany to change route

EU co-ordinating the urgent delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Moldova

Why global collaboration is needed to protect against a new generation of cyber threats

Does upgrading our minds mean losing the spark of genius?

This Brooklyn farm company is training a new generation of urban farmers

Countries are piling on record amounts of debt amid COVID-19. Here’s what that means

A brief history of cryptography and why it matters

Yemen: €95 million in EU humanitarian aid for people threatened by conflict and famine

Parliament: No consent to EU budget until €11.2 billion unpaid bills are settled

Chinese tech investors are turning towards MENA. Here’s why

Can Obama attract Iran close to the US sphere of influence?

How our Europe will regain its strength: op-ed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

From underestimation to valorization: how mobile technology is transforming global health

The Khashoggi affair: A global complot staged behind closed doors

Safe spaces offer security and dignity for youth, and help make the world ‘better for all’: Guterres

Smart city experts should be looking to emerging markets. Here’s why

Brazil identifies a clear pathway for aligning its transfer pricing framework with the OECD standard

The public health system in Brazil as a promoter of sexual and reproductive health and rights: how does it help in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

Mountains matter, especially if you’re young, UN declares

At G20 Summit OECD’s Gurría says collective action vital to tackle global challenges

Top UN court orders Myanmar to protect Rohingya from genocide

How fungi could save the world

Why South Africa is on a path of economic renewal

Rule of Law: Commission launches infringement procedure to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court

Supply chains are on the cusp of a data-fed revolution. Here’s how businesses can succeed.

Global warming: our responsibility

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s