When we think about the UN and ending poverty, the role of information technology for sustainable development isn’t always obvious. However, looking at the UN’s 2030 Agenda, it’s clear that even developing countries need access to the same digital resources if they wish to become competitive on a global level.
6G is slated to contribute significantly to the life sciences, delivering crucial advances in healthcare particularly. However, we believe that its unique offerings may also find use in helping the UN reach its sustainability goals for 2030. Here’s a closer look at what that entails, and where we think 6G might help.
6G and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The Sustainable Development Goals refer to a set of 17 objectives that the United Nations hopes to accomplish throughout the world by 2030. Adopted in 2015, it lays out what it describes as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for the people and the planet.”
These goals reach broadly and cover almost every aspect of life. Although at the top of the list stand the elimination of poverty and hunger, the UN notes that these objectives can only be accomplished as part of a holistic effort to generally improve living conditions around the world from the ground up. In other words, the UN intends for its Agenda to fundamentally alter the very infrastructure and systems currently in place.
Although these goals might seem ambitious, the rapid advancements in technology may play a role in fulfilling at least some of them. As 5G rolls out and the R&D activities of 6G ramp up, we’re hopeful that some innovations arise from these activities to assist with these goals. Here are three areas where we think that has the greatest chance at happening.
1. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
The ninth goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development identifies the development of quality, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure to support a population’s growing needs. The goal includes not just things like transportation infrastructure, but also scientific research and the cultivation of domestic technology that aids other sectors as well as private citizens.
Emphasizing infrastructure creation in developing countries is particularly important as the world races towards a fully digital reality. Nonetheless, in 2020, only 59 percent of the world has internet access. Only 4.8 billion people (around 60 percent) own a mobile phone. According to Ericsson, around 75 percent of the world has 4G – the rest is using 3G or earlier.
6G will be able to address many infrastructure challenges by making a ubiquitous wireless network possible. The many abilities 6G will possess include:
- Comprehensive coverage: We’ll finally say goodbye to dead spots and spotty rural coverage, which can help developing nations tremendously.
- Affordable infrastructure: With the reduction of energy consumption requirements, we expect wireless connectivity to decrease in price.
- More powerful smart devices: Energy and cost-efficient devices will pave the way for increased innovation across the board.
- AI-driven research for impassable challenges. Smart networks are in our future, and we’ll use them to solve some of our most intractable problems due to the horizons of data analytics that they’ll unlock.
2. Quality Education
At the time of developing the Agenda, more than 50 percent of school children worldwide were failing to meet minimum proficiency levels in math and reading. The UN likewise notes that the ratio of teachers to students has stagnated since 2017, and adequately trained teachers are becoming more difficult to find in many parts of the world.
Currently, the developed world is experiencing a burgeoning of online education, a trend that will likely increase in the coming decade. We’re excited about this because it makes access to skills and training much easier, particularly when access to a physical institution or teacher isn’t possible.
With the comprehensive coverage that 6G is expected to offer, we hope that the next generation of wireless connectivity will make education and job training categorically easier to access around the world.
3. Decent Work and Economic Growth
Inclusive, sustainable economic growth is a challenge for any country, but developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the inequalities that can arise when a dearth of opportunities exists. The UN considers unemployment and a lack of access to a living wage to stand among some of the key requirements for creating a secure society.
Noting that unemployment in “young people” is particularly vulnerable, one of the main points for this goal includes access to reliable, affordable technology.
Here, 6G can also help in several surprising ways beyond providing more internet access (and thus education opportunities) for job seekers. We can expect:
- Industrial growth. 6G, like 5G, will require significant infrastructure investments. This will create jobs and open career pathways not yet imagined.
- Affordable technology. 6G is expected to harness low-cost hardware by addressing some of the longstanding challenges of current device design.
- The rise of a digital economy. Although one already exists online, 6G will herald its maturation through a dramatic increase in accessibility. Some forward-thinkers even believe that the presence of a digital economy will directly impact a country’s ability to compete in the global economy.
- Innovations for the data economy. Data may already be more valuable than oil, and that’s not going to change. This will open up new opportunities for work and economic growth around the world.
Information Technology for Sustainable Development: A Future With 6G
6G has much potential when it comes to researching the science and developing the technology for sustainable development projects. As the world races towards a full digital reality (that may, in fact, already be here), sustainable development will need information technology to accomplish it.
Already, 6G is expected to make significant contributions to critical infrastructure, including healthcare and government resources. We hope that it will also transform the world everywhere by supporting the UN in its 2030 agenda to bring peace and prosperity to all.
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