Digital is Not Necessarily Sustainable
Updated: Jul 18, 2022
If I asked you what your company's most important action towards achieving the 1,5 degree target is, how likely is it that you would answer "digitalization"?
In fact, digitalization of products and services is probably the most common ingredient in the efforts towards achieving any of the 17 UN sustainabilty goals. According to a research paper by Mondejar, Avtar, Diaz et al (2021), digitalization in general and artificial intelligence in specific will be crucial for the future of food production, access to clean water, healthcare, sustainable industry, and climate research.
At the same time, digitalization is about to become a scary threat to all the 17 sustainability goals. Did you know that building, training and deploying an advanced deep learning model may require as much energy as about 30 Norwegian households for a year? The data centers around the world currently use as much energy as 1% of the world's total consumption, or about as much as the entire country of Spain and twice as much as the country of Sweden. Crypto mining has been banned in several countries because it causes blackouts in the electrical grids. In 2021, we produced as much electrical waste as the total weight of the Chinese wall (58M tonnes), and 31 million women and children are, according to the World Health Organization, in severe immediate health risk because of working in the informal electrical waste industry. In addition, millions of men are also at severe health risk in this dirty and poisonous industry.
All this, and the digitalization journey of societies and businesses has barely started….
Digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, internet of things ARE important for the sustainable future of societies and businesses, such as making buildings more sustainable, securing food production, and developing smarter and healthier cities for people to live in. But how can YOU as a leader navigate in this overwhelming landscape of digital technologies? What do you need to know, what are your options, and how much impact can you actually make? The answer is way more than you might think, on all threee accounts.
Are you curious to learn more? Book me for a keynote or a boardroom sparring, where I will share my perspectives on why, what and how.
Mondejar,M.E., Avtar, R., Diaz, H.L.B., et at, 2021. Digitalization to achieve sustainable development goals: Steps towards a Smart Green Planet. Science of the Total Environment 794 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148539