Promoting Technology as a Pathway to a Sustainable Future

Mobile and cloud technologies can help successfully implement sustainable development programs, but change remains incremental.

For some global development stakeholders, building a better tomorrow starts with adopting the technologies of today.

In September, the United Nations identified 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to meet by 2030. The agenda focuses on ending poverty; eliminating educational, gender, energy and other inequalities; promoting sustainable consumption and production; and expanding access to information and communication technologies (ICTs).

But for IT nonprofit NetHope, increasing access to technology is as much a means as it is an end. In the recently released report “SDG ICT Playbook: From Innovation to Impact,” the organization says cloud, mobile and other solutions are critical tools for meeting SDGs.

“These are the building blocks that comprise many impactful ICT solutions,” the report states. “Some are in use in developing countries today. Others will take time to make their way into global use, but are essential to addressing complex development problems in the face of scarce resources.”

The Mobile Movement

Mobile devices, in particular, have great potential to connect people with ICT solutions anytime, anywhere. The report states that smartphones can end isolation for disadvantaged populations, streamline disaster relief efforts and provide access to information and services that can improve livelihoods.

However, gaps in mobile ownership slow progress toward those aims. GSMA reports that only 50 percent of the world’s population had a mobile phone subscription at the end of 2014, and women are 14 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men in low- and middle-income countries.

NetHope suggests that falling smartphone costs and the shift to mobile-first business strategies could help close mobile phone ownership gaps. The organization also promotes digital literacy programs as a way to empower women to access ICT solutions.

How Cloud Comes Into Play

As a complementary technology to mobile, cloud computing accommodates data sharing between individuals and organizations, regardless of their geographical locations.

NetHope’s SDG playbook suggests that as cloud services become more affordable, entrepreneurs will be able to create locally relevant applications that offer value to developing communities.

In the meantime, unreliable network service is a barrier to cloud-based app adoption. And although some organizations will turn to low-bandwidth apps as an interim solution, others may choose to bypass the flawed technology entirely in favor of more effective ICT solutions.

“The pace of ICT-enabled change will vary from region to region, country to country, community to community and one demographic group to the next,” the NetHope playbook states. “ICT plans must meet communities where they are today, but should not assume that each community will go through the same technology adoption cycle and at the same rate.”

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Oct 19 2015

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