Technology for a Secure, Sustainable and Superior Future, Report 2023
- Technology and connectivity for those most in need could reduce the cost of UN SDGs by up to 40% to 2030, with recession, pandemic and the war in Ukraine having raised costs
- In the long-term, these investments could also lay foundations for more inclusive global growth, boosting average per capita income globally to that of South Korea by 2060
- Analysis of 100 leading tech companies shows commitment to action in critical areas, but long- term investments must continue to be prioritised amidst global uncertainty
With the world currently failing to pursue and fund the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), the Force for Good Initiative today reveals that technology can help bridge this gap by up to 40% and lay the foundations for future prosperity.
The UN has set a deadline of 2030 for achieving the SDGs, which are a set of global benchmarks intended to help catalyse action on key determinants of prosperity, including the environment, education, equality, health, and governance.
Progress on the SDGs risks been undone by global shocks, with over 100 million more people in extreme poverty since 2019. Roughly 210 million more people are experiencing acute food insecurity, while 100 million children have fallen below minimum reading proficiency levels and 270 million people are classified as migrants, estimated to grow to as many as one billion by 2050.
New analysis by Force for Good shows that technology is likely to determine whether the UN SDGs can be met, with investments in critical areas able to dramatically reduce the growing funding gap:
- Deploying existing digital technologies to aid global connectivity could address as much as 20% of the SDGs, reducing the cost by over US$30 trillion.
- Targeting innovation at specific goals across education, finance, and healthcare could increase the impact up to c.40%, bringing the total saving to up to c.US$55 trillion.
See related article: Force for Good reveals funding gap for sustainable development has widened to US$135 trillion ahead of 2022 UN General Assembly debates
More fundamental, longer-term breakthroughs – such as a clean and abundant energy source that replaces fossil fuels in every application – could enable technology to triple global GDP up to 2060, raising per capital income globally to equal that of South Korea today.
Ketan Patel, Chair of Force for Good, says: “Given its fundamental impact and transformative potential, technology has a critical role in driving the SDGs and human security over the near- to medium-term, too. The focus on capital and the financial institutions that manage capital has taken the primary position of interest for the UN and other transnational institutions. While capital is a critical component, it is technology that is likely to determine whether many of the goals can be met.”
Technology companies will have a critical responsibility to roll out innovation at scale where this is most required. Analysis of 100 industry leaders shows broad commitment to investments in key areas, including:
- 85% of tech leaders pursuing AI initiatives and 60% focusing on big data analytics
- 64% of leaders pursuing initiatives in Internet of Things technologies, and 57% engaging with smart grid technologies
- 46% and 37% of the industry’s leaders are investing, respectively in technologies that will augment or create alternative realities, or investing in technologies that may be instrumental in transforming and democratizing finance
- By contrast, technologies related to material science and gene-based medicine remain relatively niche, with only 17-23% of industry leaders publicly active in these areas.
Jon Miller, Force for Good Advisory Council Member and Former Chairman and CEO of AOL Inc., says: “Successful businesses are already looking ahead to the next opportunity, especially in times of volatility and change. These findings are a call to action to the technology sector, which – despite current headwinds – remains indispensable if the world is to achieve inclusive, sustainable growth for all.”
The report recommends a series of focus areas for projects to help drive alignment with the UN SDGs, including preserving and mitigating damage to the planet, managing the dislocations of the transition, and ensuring peace and building resilience.