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Digital technology could accelerate a shift to a low-carbon economy Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Ulf Ewaldsson
Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Group Function Technology, Ericsson
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The Digital Economy

This article is part of: World Economic Forum on ASEAN

The sector of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has a crucial role to play in driving sustainable growth and social inclusion worldwide. In particular, it has the potential to accelerate action on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

While the ICT industry as a whole is helping find ways to support all 17 SDGs, my goal – the one I am personally leading efforts to reach – is goal number nine: "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation."

The aim of Goal Nine is to make sure that digital infrastructure can reach all sectors of society and support the development of all the other SDGs.

We want to work for an inclusive and sustainable infrastructure that gives increased access to ICT tools (including access to the internet and mobile financial services), and to upgrade existing infrastructure with clean and environmentally sound technologies, such as mobility technology, digital transport and communication applications, to secure connectivity. We are such strong believers in ICT that we can see it as a major part of meeting all the other SDGs.

Here at Ericsson, we detail our performance in the energy consumption of our products. One example is, by putting the cell in LTE networks into sleep mode when not being used, significant savings of 15-50% in energy consumption can be achieved. A mobile operator in China using these software-sleep features was able to reduce energy consumption by 20% with an annual saving of 74 million kWh. Another example is our highly efficient architecture core networks that reduce space and power requirements to significantly lower its energy consumption and carbon footprint. Following the implementation of this solution, an Indian operator saved 75% in power consumption.

In addition to our focus on solutions which empower businesses and industry, we also collaborate with customers and partners to drive sustainable development across society. Through our "Technology for Good" initiatives, we have positively impacted an estimated 20 million people around the world and have done so successfully by addressing the challenges presented to us during the roll-out of every new project.

One such challenge was connecting schools and students in Myanmar to the internet despite a lack of access to 24-hour electricity. We eventually found ways to get the schools and students online using solar power but the situation represented the challenges we face in regions such as South-East Asia – we have implemented ICT solutions that will allow students and teachers to benefit from 21st-century education. But how do we power the devices?

In the context of sustainable development, we need to ensure wider accessibility to cost-efficient energy for all, with support for newer solutions to promote cleaner and carbon-neutral alternatives. The lack of access to energy is hindering the potential of ICT to drive growth and inclusion, not just in South-East Asia but also in many other regions around the world.

The regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) places energy connectivity at the centre of the sustainable development framework. “With energy demand in Asia and the Pacific forecast to nearly double from 2010 to 2035, access to reliable and adequate energy services will remain a focus for the decades to come.”

We view the availability and use of clean energy as key drivers of the growth and inclusion that needs to happen globally. According to our research, smart ICT solutions can accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15% by 2030. This alone would amount to around 10 gigatonnes of CO2e – more than the current carbon footprint of the EU and the US combined.

In order to realize the gains that will come with the transformation of the energy sector through transformative ICT solutions, we need cooperation between governments, the private sector, international organizations, civil society and academia.

Learn more about these partnerships, as well as ICT’s role in accelerating achievement of the SDGs, in Ericsson and the Earth Institute at Columbia University’s new report: ICT & SDGs.

The World Economic Forum on ASEAN is taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 1 to 2 June.

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