Table of Contents

  • This Report was written as a collaborative effort between 29 UN programmes, specialized agencies and international organizations. It draws on the personal insights from a range of leaders of UN organizations and World Wildlife International, to whom we are very grateful. It has been compiled and edited by the Chief Editor, Phillippa Biggs of ITU, while the concept and the design were developed by Ahone Njume-Ebong, Designer at ITU.

  • Our networked society is changing the way we live. The impact and implications of the digital revolution are becoming more evident with each passing hour.

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a compact to apply the world’s unprecedented know-how, ingenuity, technology and wealth to end the unacceptable human suffering and deprivation endured by many millions of women and men. They provide a framework for transforming development to ensure it is both more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable, operating within planetary boundaries.

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has given us a framework to eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable food security. A significant part of the efforts to meet those commitments should be focused in the rural areas of the developing world where 70% of the world’s extremely poor people live, including most of the hungry. Improving rural people’s livelihoods and smallholders’ capacities is a central element in ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.

  • In the year 2000, the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) introduced the concept of ICTs as a force for development with the Millennium Declaration resolving to “ensure that the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies, are available to all”21. By incorporating ICTs into the goals and targets of the MDGs, the UN captured the attention of both the public and private sectors, which were encouraged to find new ways to work together. WHO was immediately engaged, establishing innovative projects in every region to test the potential of ICTs for health, even in some of the most challenging settings.

  • The world is changing rapidly, driven partly by new ICTs. We must ensure that the digital revolution is a revolution for development that bridges divides, strengthens inclusion, and leaves no one behind. In this respect, new technologies can be both drivers and enablers of progress for Member States in taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and specifically SDG 4, to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. For this, we must support States and all relevant actors in making the most of ICTs as development multipliers, through new investment in access, skills and relevant content.

  • Technology in its various forms, including ICTs, continues to redefine and revolutionize the way we all live and work. Harnessing this technology to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment is not only vital for women and girls, but critical throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The link between technology and women’s rights is clearly reflected in SDG 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women, which includes a specific target on utilizing technology and ICTs to realize women’s and girls’ empowerment. However, realizing gender equality reaches far beyond any single, individual goal. Gender equality is key to ensuring that no one is left behind, and is intrinsic to the success of each and every SDG.

  • Today, we are facing unprecedented challenges in ensuring that everyone has access to sustainably managed water and sanitation services. In 2017, out of a global population of around 7.5 billion people, some 1.8 billion people use a contaminated source of drinking water, 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, and over 840,000 people die every year from preventable water-borne diseases.

  • The IAEA plays an active part in helping Member States to achieve the SDGs. Far from being the preserve of industrialized countries, nuclear science and technology offer prospects for addressing the broader energy needs to developed and developing countries alike, by offering more options and choice. The IAEA uses ICTs to support Member States in improving the functionality, safety and security of existing and new Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) to ensure Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7) and improve Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9) by managing complex nuclear lifecycle technology systems. However, the applications of nuclear techniques – and the IAEA’s work – in fact extend far beyond just nuclear energy.

  • Ever since we invented the wheel, human beings have had reason to celebrate new technology. That is certainly also the case with ICTs, which have transformed our economies and societies, indeed our world, over the past few decades. Just think of the Internet and mobile phones – in less than a generation, the worldwide web and the global reach of 4.7 billion mobile phone subscribers have revolutionized the way we live and work, creating what the UN has dubbed the ‘Information Society’ – a society of globalized interdependence.

  • All too often, it is assumed that improvements in ICT connectivity rates will automatically translate into improvements in development. In fact, as ITU has long been highlighting, this can only be the case where an enabling environment with flexible and adaptive ICT regulatory frameworks are in place, to capitalize on the benefits of the digital revolution. Indeed, ITU organizes the annual Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) to debate new and emerging ICT regulatory issues in ICT. Real-world drivers and constraints cannot be neglected at the expense of the virtual world – we need concerted efforts to harness the power of ICTs and the online world to enrich people’s lives.

  • The number of people compelled to flee their homes by conflict and persecution currently stands at 65.3 million – a level unmatched in decades. The vast majority are displaced in their own countries, or hosted in frontline countries within their own regions, often for many years on end. The refugee experience is in essence one of exclusion and disconnection. Uprooted from their homes, separated from family members, dislocated from their communities, and without the protection of their governments, they are effectively cast adrift.

  • The world is rapidly urbanizing. More than 50% of the world’s population already lives in urban areas, a figure that is estimated to rise to 70% by 2050. Some geographical analyses in fact suggest that if we add the official urban figures of peripheral municipalities located in the vicinity of cities, current figures would be already at 70% of the world’s population, implying an estimated 85-90% of the world’s population could be urbanized in the coming years. Planning and managing urbanization is a critical issue for every country and region in the world.

  • As kids, many of us marvelled at the kind of computer gadgets we saw in Star Trek, Bond or Mission Impossible. Yet today, much of that once unattainable technology has already come of age, and has even been replaced by the next generation. As processing power continues to grow and prices drop, the ICT sector offers some of the biggest challenges and some of the most incredible opportunities for sustainable development.

  • Many enhancements in the availability of weather information have taken place over recent decades from high-resolution satellite observations to high-quality weather forecasting using more and more sophisticated super-computers operating ensemble models configuration. The sharing of model output allows national centres to benefit from advanced high resolution modelling over their area of responsibility, which in turn can support automated decision and warning processes. On the global scale, we can today predict out to six days ahead with the same accuracy as we could achieve for a period of four days, 20 years ago. This means society has much more advance warning of weather hazards than before, allowing people to prepare and, thereby, limit the loss of lives and property.

  • As a UN specialized agency, IMO is firmly committed to helping achieve the aims of the SDGs. The maritime sector, a truly global industry, can directly support the achievement of the SDGs as shipping has a significant role to play in helping create conditions for increased employment, prosperity and stability through promoting maritime trade.

  • The elegant and revolutionary uniqueness of the seventeen SDGs is that they are all interconnected, but four of them are perhaps the foundation of all the others. Productive land, clean and abundant fresh water, healthy oceans and a stable climate are arguably the foundation of all the other socio-economic goals. The rationale is simple: we are not going to build a just and prosperous future for all of us, on a degraded planet with an impoverished nature. SDG 15 under the heading of ‘Life on Land’, along with SDG 14 (“conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”) and SDG 6 (“ensure availability and sustainable management of water”) highlight the need for maintaining rich, productive and diverse natural systems.

  • Countries face numerous challenges in their efforts to intercept the finances of terrorist groups and prevent them from buying weapons from transnational organized crime networks. One tried and tested method is through the use of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) to analyze and report on suspicious monetary transactions. To support Member States and FIUs against crime and terrorism, UNODC created goAML–Anti-Money Laundering software, which is now used by around 40 countries. The “go” family of products deliver effective software solutions to support the work of law enforcement, intelligence, anti-corruption, and drugs control agencies against the criminals. These products are evidence of how ICTs are actively working for countries on the frontlines in the struggle against transnational organized crime. But ICTs are also helping to achieve the SDGs – here’s how.

  • There is growing enthusiasm for leveraging big data to inform and accelerate development, by strengthening the evidence base for more effective, responsible, and inclusive development investments. In a world where data often lags the pace of human progress, big data offers extraordinary potential to provide near real-time estimations of the number and locations of people. Big data can support national development efforts during or after humanitarian crises, in the midst of mass movements of people or when governments need to estimate the size, location and composition of their population during or after conflict, when official data collection systems may be undermined.