How the digital industry can help arrest Climate Change

By Helen Whittaker
13 Nov 2019

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At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting earlier this year it was stated that digital technologies are already helping reduce global carbon emissions by up to 15% – or one-third of the 50% reduction required by 2030 – through solutions in energy, manufacturing, agriculture and land use, buildings, services, transportation and traffic management.

This corresponds to more than the current carbon footprints of the EU and the US combined. But it is through the Fourth Industrial Revolution – particularly 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) – that the digital sector can take the pace of change to the next level. 5G combined with AI has the potential to make our societies and economies radically more efficient and sustainable.

The name ‘Great State’ defines a utopian future where technology has improved the human condition. Indeed, we articulate our mission internally as “using technology in creative ways to make a better world for all”. The arguments for action on climate change have never been more powerful or more urgent, yet consensus from politicians is seemingly harder to achieve than ever as populist national agendas take centre-stage.

By focusing on the fundamental purpose that technology is a vehicle for future good, and by adopting an agile practice we are closely aligned to the principles published by the WEF in its working Exponential Climate Action Roadmap. Indeed everyone working in the digital industry can adopt processes to help unlock the potential of technology as an active agent for positive change.

At Great State our approach enables us to work in collaborative teams with our clients and to deliver innovative results based on real user needs, in swift sprint cycles. Often, we focus on quick wins to solve critical business challenges, while keeping a long-term focus on the bigger prize of positive impact and transformative change.

To halve emissions by 2030, the WEF states that we need to maximise exponential technologies at different levels of development. Cloud computing, first-generation industrial automation and 3G and 4G mobile networks, among others, already serve as a foundation for big efficiency gains. Next come 5G, AI, IoT and drones, which all depend on connectivity and open up completely new opportunities. With the right policy frameworks and strong climate leadership, these technologies will be instrumental to moving society towards a circular and lean economy, focused on growing service value while reducing waste and pollution. Taken together, this will require nothing short of a global economic transformation and climate leadership at all levels from cities, countries and corporations.

By adopting exponential technologies for our clients, we help them to develop more efficient and effective solutions that are better for their business and, ultimately, better for the planet. For us this means helping clients such as Honda, Versus Arthritis and UNHCR, to benefit from the use of these technologies in a range of ways – from telematics for electric cars, AI to develop a wellbeing chatbot, or by adopting fitbits for global campaigns that both encourage people to walk more while highlighting the global plight of displaced peoples.

As the WEF says, digitalisation is already transforming the global economy and unleashing powerful forces in every industry. The grand challenge for humanity is to ensure that ground-breaking technologies have a clear purpose for our planet and everyone on it. If we adopt an integrated framework for sustainable innovation within planetary boundaries for the people and planet, and harness these forces, we can build exponential momentum and make the Carbon Law, which explores how change can be implemented across all key sectors of the global economy, a reality.

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