November 7, 2018

How ICT Can Accelerate Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

Darine Ameyed analyzes a class of technology that was prominent in global development discussions at the International Conference on Sustainable Development held at Columbia University in New York (USA).

Technology innovation and sustainability can mutually reinforce one another. As technological innovation is recognized as the main driver of socioeconomic growth, it can also play a critical role in supporting the successful implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When used effectively, technology provide efficient solutions for development challenges from the local to the global level.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have become, critical in transforming social and economic development. Over the past several years we have seen emergence initiatives and organizations dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of sustainable development.

ICT has immense potential to speed up the rate of diffusion in a vast range of technologies. It can also reduce the costs of service delivery, helping low-income countries to quickly achieve development milestones.

ICT offers a range of fundamental and methodological contributions that empower sustainability through various tools and more generic models. These technologies are a fundamental enabler of economic prosperity, recently identified among the main facilitators for the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental and the principal enablers of the SDGs 2030 (Sachs 2015), (Tjoa and Tjoa 2016). ICT offers a range of fundamental and methodological contributions that empower sustainable development and implementation of the SDGs by advanced tools and more holistic models.

Successful integration of technology to enable smart global sustainability requires a deep understanding of the potential of technologies and their socio-technical impacts, as well as their cultural and ethical influence, plus the identification of additional existing or emerging enablers for sustainable development to accelerate action on SDGs. As an example, such tools can help many sectors like education, healthcare, energy, cities, etc.

ICT has immense potential to speed up, scale and increase the rate of diffusion in a vast range of cutting-edge technologies, applications, and platforms across sectors, it can also dramatically reduce the costs of service delivery, helping low-income countries to achieve key development milestones while contributing to a growth economy and social well-being,

ICT provides an optimized decision support system by leveraging massive data, analytics, and contextual management to scale and integrates sustainable ICT applications for various markets effectively. While incorporating systemic approaches and strategic projects, this enabler empowers computational modeling and strategic decision making. It also helps to generate holistic models, integrated tools, strategies and policies as well as implementation of the SDGs.

To achieve the SDGs, ICT needs to be combined with innovative policies, services, and solutions. It can be a powerful means of implementation in many significant ways:

  • Accelerate upscaling services in health, education, financial services, smart agriculture, and low-carbon energy systems.
  • Accelerate institutional learning through online communities.
  • Economizing resources and reducing the costs of services delivery upgrading the quality.
  • Reduce deployment costs addressing urban and rural realities.
  • Drive progress in many sectors and improve existing technologies with innovation, connectivity, productivity and efficiency across areas. Top six sectors that will be significantly impacted by ICT are Energy, Manufacturing, Buildings, Agriculture, Mobility and Health.
  • Enhanced public awareness and engagement.


Sachs, Jeffrey D. 2015. The age of sustainable development: Columbia University Press

Tjoa, A Min, and Simon Tjoa. 2016. “The role of ICT to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).” IFIP World Information Technology Forum (pdf)

About the Author

Darine Ameyed is a post-doctoral researcher at Synchromedia lab (ÉTS), Montreal (Canada). She also serves as a science project manager in an interdisciplinary research center on sustainable development operationalization (CIRODD), and the co-founder of NYX-R, a start-up that offers a cognitive and eco-sensing IoT platform.

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