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Will Technology Help or Hinder The Fight For Our Planet?

With so much discussion over AI, let’s ask how technology can help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals

When I hear the word ‘sustainability,’ my mind goes to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ posters at school, taking the metro to reduce my carbon footprint, thrift shopping, and other advice from sustainable living TikTok.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, set in 2015, encompass more than tackling the climate crisis alone. These goals aim to combat several different problems faced by people from all corners of the world, and all of them are interconnected.

Since 2015, some progress has been made in all 17 categories, the full reports can be seen on the United Nations website.

It probably won’t come as a shock to hear that Covid, as well as other global circumstances in the last couple of years, have derailed much of the progress made before 2020. Technology became more essential than ever during this time, and what I want to explore is how it can contribute even further to achieving these sustainability goals and improve life globally.

With new AI technologies in the news almost constantly at the minute, whether it be ChatGPT or humanoid robots capable of full conversations, there is great debate over whether technology can help or hinder us. Do computers kill our brain cells? Will robots take over the world? Valid questions, but let’s have a look at what positive change technologies have the potential to create regarding some of the SDGs.

Goal 1 - Poverty

The first goal on the list; a large contributor to the amount of people living in poverty is a lack of access to financial services, over half of the world’s population do not own a bank account. The Financial Inclusion Global Initiative, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, has given thousands of people in developing countries possibilities to manage their money and receive financial advice.

Goal 4 - Education

Millions of students were subject to distance learning measures during the pandemic, and there are constantly advances in education tools to help students from afar. However, countries in which access to technology is not a given, computers and mobile devices give students chances to learn and create their own opportunities in the future, through online education tools and through connections with other parts of the world.

Goal 7 - Affordable and clean energy

Technology advancements over the last 100 years or so have contributed to a horrifying increase in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. With more understanding and education about the climate and how to protect it has brought more and more innovation to create cleaner energy supplies, such as solar energy, electrified transport and smart grids in large cities.

Goal 14-15: Life below water / life on land

There are incredible technologies which can locate and protect both land and sea creatures. Scientists, with sensors and tracking technology can learn more about wildlife, what it needs and how best to protect it, both from natural dangers and from man-made ones.


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