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.
For digital technologies to contribute to achieving the17 SDGs, it is crucial to understand the diverse range of "digital enablers" that are available and how they can be employed. While digital technologies have the potential to positively impact areas such as education, the economy, healthcare or public services, their implementation often lacks coordination and sustainability. To address these challenges, a set of "Digital Transformation Enablers" have been identified to enable governments to strategically embed digital technologies into their programming. Click on each element below to learn more.
A key component of digital progress is setting out a strong, ambitious, and credible direction for a country's digital transformation journey, grounded in the needs, realities, and aspirations of the population, and aligned with development goals. This vision should propel the creation of digital products and services that are accessible, inclusive, rights-based, gender-responsive, secure and relevant. It should be comprehensive and founded on collaboration since that is critical in shaping, scaling, and strengthening local digital ecosystems and driving the digital transformation as a mechanism of positive change.
In this context, the outcomes are the 17 SDGs, which comprise a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. Countries and societies need to identify where and how digital technologies can best play a role in progressing toward these goals. This requires the SDGs to be localized to align with the contexts of countries and communities, and their local digital landscapes. The outcomes must be measurable so that they can be calculated regularly. Ultimately, the usage and adoption rate of digital technologies are determined in part by the extent to which people find these products and services to be accessible, affordable, and useful for their lives and livelihoods.
Digital transformation needs to add tangible value, and it can do this through creating relevant and useful content, applications, and services that can be used by people to meet their needs and improve their lives. These solutions can be open- or closed-source, self-service or assisted, developed by big or small tech, and delivered online, offline, or a mixture of both. And they can leverage a range of device types such as desktops, laptops, smartphones, feature phones, and radios.
These are the catalysts that enable content, applications, and services, and help realize the national vision of digital transformation to help achieve the SDGs. They can be split into technical and non-technical enablers. A more comprehensive description of each technical and non-technical enablers can be found in the Appendix. Examples of enablers are highlighted below, illustrating countries that have done particularly well in building and expanding a specific enabler.
Non-technical enablers comprise the essential policies, programmes, initiatives, resources, and capacities to shape, embed, and scale digital transformation and digital ecosystems in an inclusive, accessible, transparent, and participatory way.
Technical enablers are secure-by-design technical elements that support the development and growth of a functioning digital ecosystem. They include interoperable Digital Public Infrastructure, connectivity, and technologies such as cloud and high-performance computing infrastructure.