Global e-Sustainability Initiative report says digital solutions can unlock new opportunities to meet Sustainable Development Goals

Today, hosted at the Microsoft Center for Innovation and Policy in Washington D.C., the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) published a report prepared by Accenture Strategy that shows how digital solutions can pave the way in helping the world to achieve the objectives of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

GESI graphic

The report’s findings illustrate how digital technology can shape and transform a broad range of economic and social opportunities worldwide. At Microsoft, we are inspired by these findings, and as a company whose mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and a member of GeSI, we fully believe in the Digital Transformation possibilities to drive progress with the SDGs to create more equity and improve all citizens’ quality of life.

The GeSI report highlights the recurring themes of the need for innovation and collaboration. It reinforced an idea I’ve seen time and time again: if we want to create lasting change, we must all play our part – especially those within the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector.

Whilst the report was filled with valuable insight, a few ideas stood out as major takeaways for me:

  • Improving people’s lives: 1.6 billion people could benefit from more accessible, affordable and better quality medical services through e-healthcare, while connected car solutions could save up to 720,000 lives annually and prevent up to 30 million traffic injuries (SDG#3);
  • Boosting equitable growth: Digital solutions like the Internet of Things and robotics can help bring almost US$1 trillion in economic benefits to industries from smart manufacturing and smart logistics (SDG#9);
  • Protecting the environment: Digital solutions could enable greenhouse gas emissions reduction and drive market transformation for renewables, cutting carbon emissions by around 20 percent in 2030 (SDG#13).

Consistent with the SDGs, Microsoft’s clear mission is to enable every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. Digital solutions are vital to advancing these aims and those of the SDGs because they diffuse at unprecedented speed and reach while increasing access to goods and services in a more people-centric, affordable and sustainable way.

Our role as a global organization is to help the health industry move from one bounded by walls and institutions where almost all of the care takes place in a doctor’s office or clinic, to one where much more of the work, the expenditures, and the success and innovation happens outside those institutions to enable more of a healthcare and preventative care industry. We refer to this transformation as “healthcare without walls.”

  • Shezlong, an Egypt-based, start-up company, that looks to offer online psychotherapy for millions of sufferers within the country and the Middle East is using Microsoft Azure, a fully scalable, secure and accessible cloud-based platform. Shezlong is trying to fill this service gap by offering online treatment from qualified psychotherapists. The online nature of this service helps overcome cultural barriers and social stigma typically associated with seeking and receiving treatment.
  • Microsoft cloud technology is being used to deliver online healthcare services to regions of Botswana currently without adequate primary care or access to broadband. This allows local medical workers to send high-resolution patient images to specialized medical facilities in Gabaronne and around the world. The goal is more accurate diagnoses and better patient care.

We also believe every country and community needs to evolve and innovate to compete in the dynamic global economy. That means unleashing the innovative job creators of the future and building the skills of the workforce to fill those jobs. Microsoft works to empower both sides of the future economy — helping local entrepreneurs bring the next great idea to life and enabling the future workforce that will help those innovators make their ideas a reality.

  • Microsoft helped launch TV white spaces in rural Kenya, bringing the Internet to rural areas via underutilized broadcast bandwidth and solar power. A recycled shipping container serves as an Internet café and is enabling enterprising citizens to earn a living online. The technology, which is also bringing the Internet to schools and to the Red Cross, is changing lives in Kenya.

We’re also working with governments and organizations globally to connect social and mobile data through cloud technologies to improve overall resource efficiency, reduce energy use and emissions, and better manage waste. Our work has empowered solutions designed to address issues ranging from establishing smart grids to improving water management.

  • Working with Microsoft and CGI, the city of Helsinki Finland, expanded the company’s data warehouse solution to collect and analyze data from bus sensors to reduce fuel consumption, improve driver performance, and make bus rides smoother and safer.
  • Carnegie Mellon University utilized Microsoft Azure, Cortana Intelligence, Power BI, and the PI System to reduce campus building maintenance and energy costs. With these capabilities, CMU personnel gain advanced analytics for improved operational insights and decisions, and CMU gains a way to cut energy use by 30 percent.
  • Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, is using Azure and SharePoint to host mobile app MyWaters to educate citizens on water conservation and flood levels. Citizens can also provide real-time info on water levels in areas that may be unmonitored by CCTV cameras.

This report reflects on both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead for our global community. For instance, every country has achievement gaps in more than half of the 17 SDGs and many fall short on all of them.

Taking advantage of digital solutions will give countries the ability to measure, track and advance the SDGs within trusted environments and enable true progress. We particularly appreciate our long-standing work with GeSI, as our combined desire to collaborate, communicate, and bring people together with innovative technology, unites us and can make a difference in closing those gaps. The report released today provides the ICT industry with an opportunity to define a clear path to a better future — a future of integrated solutions that tackle interrelated problems for helping the world’s nations solve critical social, economic and environmental challenges. We look forward to being part of this Digital Transformation.