Emerging Technologies: New Fuel for a Sustainable World

In the last of a series on how governments can realize 2030, we’re honing in on sustainable development.

Sustainability used to be seen as a token add-on. Not anymore. Today, there’s a strong correlation between growing economies, thriving populations and nations that are tackling social and environmental issues.

Financially, it’s in governments’ and businesses’ best interests to adopt strong, innovative policies and practices. Air, water and soil pollution each year triggers significant economic, health and environmental damage around the world. Increasingly erratic weather – blamed by many scientists on human-induced climate change – closes facilities, delays production, disrupts distribution chains, raises operation costs, and reduces demand, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

There’s also a compelling reason to turn up the dial on sustainability from a basic survival of species perspective. We should all want to protect and nurture the planet on which we live – for our sake as well as that of future generations.

Scoring Sustainability Goals

Because today technology is intrinsic to every part of our lives, you can find good and bad aspects to technologies. For instance, data centers are powering businesses and jobs. They’re integral to our data-driven world. We wouldn’t have email, the internet, a modern city infrastructure, breakthroughs in scientific research and so much more without them. They also consume a lot of energy, which in its production, transmission and distribution has varying adverse environmental and health impacts.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Emerging technologies can also mitigate the unwanted side effects.

For instance, sensors that can closely calibrate energy use to demand are making modern engines and industrial motors much more energy efficient. Fuel cells and single cycle-gas turbines are giving rise to a new cohort of smaller, greener power plants with far fewer air quality impacts. Nanotechnology is making solar cells more efficient and the price for creating watts of solar energy even cheaper. And the increasing use of AI and big data are enabling even greater use of renewable energy across electric grids.

Similarly, innovative technologies have an important role to play in greening the supply chain and building a circular economy, with a focus on eliminating waste and enabling the responsible use of natural resources. With technology, governments can meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as their own national targets.

Smarter, Greener Cities

Of course, governments will need to develop policy and practical frameworks to help bring the public and private sectors together and make these goals a reality. Some will even undertake audacious smart city master plans to develop more resourceful and safer mobility options, improve water consumption and distribution, provide more access to better healthcare and much more.

In all these areas, emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and predictive analytics will play an enabling role, to make the hitherto impossible possible.

The City of San Diego is but one good example. It has deployed the world’s largest smart city IoT sensor platform to – among other things – improve the flow of traffic and direct drivers to open parking spaces, by transforming its street lighting into a connected digital infrastructure.

“This new technology will give the City and developers the opportunity to make our neighborhoods safer and smarter.”

– Kevin Faulconer, Mayor of San Diego

As a result, it’s reducing emissions from having fewer idling vehicles on the street, raising real-time environmental awareness and saving the city and taxpayers a lot of money.

To further educate public policy makers and officials, Dell partnered with Forum for the FutureLeroOpenDataSoft and the City of Palo Alto’s Office of Sustainability to study if the use of open mobility data drives positive social and environmental outcomes. The research revealed that open data portals are growing in number, breadth, use and value, and are indeed driving positive social and environmental outcomes.

Tech Driving Human Progress

As we’ve journeyed through our policy recommendations for a new era in government – by exploring the necessity to restore trust, open the floodgates to innovation, prepare the workforce for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and advance sustainable development – we’ve considered the role that emerging technologies will play on a macro level.

Without a doubt, technology offers bold new opportunities to improve access to higher quality education, expand the capability and reach of healthcare providers, create new jobs and empower workers with new skills, drive more inclusive growth and development, and deliver the innovation needed to tackle other societal concerns.

In short, responsibly fostering the development and use of these emerging technologies – by working with businesses, communities and stakeholders to develop and implement such innovative public policies and practices – will advance human progress and help ensure a more sustainable and prosperous world.

For more recommendations download Dell’s full report here.