Digital technologies are transforming governments, economies, and societies. They have the potential to play a catalytic role in supporting the global community to achieve the 2030 Agenda – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all Member States of the United Nations in 2015. This SDG Digital Acceleration Agenda shaped by ITU and UNDP, in collaboration with IDB and BCG, highlights the wide-ranging importance of digital technologies and data. From digital skills to governance and regulations, financing, infrastructure, safety and security, content, applications and services. With a range of real-world examples, it shows how game-changing digital solutions can accelerate progress in climate action, education, hunger, poverty and the role of data and digital technologies in achieving at least 70% of the 169 SDG targets.
There are only seven years left to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and currently none of the 17 SDGs have been fully met. In other words:
“Unless we act now, the 2030 Agenda will become an epitaph for a world that might have been.”
Digital technologies, such as mobile devices, digital public services, and emerging innovations including Artificial Intelligence are reshaping the global landscape. Digital technologies can be employed to increase financial inclusion, enhance government efficiency, and tackle poverty. They can play a pivotal role in achieving the SDGs. In fact, digital technologies can play a role in achieving 70% of all SDG targets.
The SDG Digital Acceleration Agenda highlights 34 digital solutions which are helping to advance the SDGs. They emphasize people-centred, collaborative and scalable approaches. Recognizing the need for holistic digital transformation, the Agenda introduces ‘Digital Transformation Enablers’, which are intended to inform national governments (and others working in digital ecosystems) about the power and potential of digital technologies and data.
Bringing proven digital solutions to scale requires building and expanding strong enablers, moving beyond pilots to implement what works and fostering interoperability among various SDG solutions.
Digital transformation relies on joint efforts between the private sector, financial institutions, civil society, the UN, governments, and young people around the world.
Addressing the $3.7+ trillion SDG funding gap requires shifting focus to foundational enablers, pooling resources through collaboration, and utilizing diverse financing methods for effective progress.
The private sector's pivotal SDG role demands renewed commitments to environmental and social governance (ESG), open innovation, and global collaboration with governments to create ecosystems that serve markets and drive progress.
Data and digital technologies can accelerate progress on the SDGs by improving access to vital services such as health care, by providing data and insights for better decision-making (e.g. in the realm of climate action), and by acting as a catalyst for wider economic and societal progress. Data and digital technologies can also help bridge gaps in education and research by facilitating access to information, and unlocking innovation . Dive into the content below to find out more.
The world is far from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. We only have seven years left to achieve the Goals by 2030.
Ambitious when adopted in 2015, the SDGs are now an even more significant proposition at the halfway point to their 2030 deadline. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate crises, and conflicts with international ramifications have slowed down, and in some cases regressed progress towards many of the SDGs. In 2020, global poverty increased for the first time in over two decades. Growing global turmoil has led to unprecedented reversals in human development progress in 90% of countries.
Data suggests that countries which made headway in digital affordability and infrastructure have been outpacing peers in progress towards the SDGs.
Analysis of more than 120 countries at different income levels reveals that countries which have expanded their digital infrastructure and made mobile data more affordable in the past decade (“digital leaders”) have made more progress towards achieving the SDGs than other countries in the same income group.
See the Dashboard below to explore the data and learn more about the analysis.
Measuring the relationship between the digital maturity of a country – loosely describing the level to which digital technologies have been integrated into society – and SDG progress is challenging.
For starters, economic growth and wealth play a significant role in both SDG progress and digital maturity, making it difficult to attribute causality. Limited data, especially in low-income countries, creates a data divide that inhibits comprehensive analysis. The multifaceted nature of both digital maturity and SDG progress also makes it difficult to draw reliable conclusions across all 17 goals. There are complex interactions between technology, governance, regulation and policy, human capital and foreign direct investment. The unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic may have further complicated these relationships.
Despite these obstacles, an assessment of data across more than 120 countries over the past decade provides intriguing results on the potential for digital technologies to advance the SDGs. While progress on the overall SDG score remains limited, these findings translate into over 40 % more SDG progress for digital leaders – in this assessment countries that made headway in digital infrastructure and digital affordability – compared to peer countries in their income group.
More details in the main report and methodology.
How data and digital technologies can contribute to bridging the gap towards the SDGs
Role of data and digital technologies to drive SDG progress
The world was generally making progress towards the SDGs until the combined challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and successive financial crises, conflicts and the increasing impact of climate change pushed many targets off track and even led to backsliding in certain areas. Efforts should now be focused on getting the targets back on track. Digital technologies can amplify the positive impact of these efforts for example by helping to improve the inclusivity, effectiveness, and impact of service delivery. Focus should be put on scaling up those digital solutions that have already proven effective (see “The Showcase” [HYPERLINK] for some examples).
Building on the progress made from getting the targets back on track and additional progress through the use of digital technologies, the focus can then shift towards increasing the ambition to reaching the goals such as . Here, integrating digital technologies into society in an inclusive, deliberate and sustainable way [HYPERLINK to digital transformation] can again enhance the impact of these efforts.
Finally, providing digital technologies and data in an inclusive manner can foster innovation globally, for example by enabling access to global knowledge and resources, facilitating and informing research and supporting communities develop digital products and services that are tailored to local contexts and needs.