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Digital technologies are key enablers of action for the decade

Vincent de Montalivet

Digital solutions help with the optimal allocation of resources, support the renewable energy system by making maximum use of wind and sun, and optimally manage mobility movements. They can also speed up construction, approval, and planning procedures and, at the same time, improve the involvement and participation of different stakeholders. However, a prerequisite for this is that digitalization itself remains “clean”. That is, it doesn’t create more CO2 than it saves, for example through its own energy requirements, and thus promotes the race to Net Zero and the ambition for climate neutrality.

Furthermore, digital technologies can help us to reach the global sustainability goals (SDGs). They can also help us to monitor the progress – and measure the effectiveness of measurement – in different fields of sustainability action.

Climate change is probably the greatest existential threat humanity has faced. Protecting citizens against its often catastrophic effects demands political will, the mobilization of people and organizations, and innovation across the whole economy. In this complex environment, data-driven technologies are key enablers that can empower the public sector to lead the way.

Digital technology in action

The orchestration of data and new technologies is essential for governments and public sector organizations to deliver simple, helpful, and effective citizen experiences. When combined with gamechanging technologies, data can also be powerful in helping the public sector respond to the more complex impacts of climate change. To demonstrate the point, we’ve identified a diverse range of stories, all taken from our report TechnoVision 2021 Public Sector Edition.

For example, Project Farm helps farmers in India, bridging the digital divide. Currently, 70% of world food production comes from smallholder farmers, primarily from developing countries, whose livelihoods are under pressure, not least from climate change. Capgemini’s Project Farm uses AI to determine farming patterns by providing key insights that improve decision making and optimize farm yield.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) fights increasingly regular and fierce wildfires caused by climate change. WIFIRE, a real-time interface simulating and projecting the spread of wildfires, also predicting potential fires in the future. Data is relayed in minutes to teams on the ground and in the air, allowing resources to be allocated more effectively, saving people and property.

Blockchain is the hero for the German Federal Environmental Agency, which uses this distributed ledger (DLT) technology to combat global warming with its emissions trading registry. As a specific type of DLT, Blockchain technology is perfect for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, able to increase the decentralization and transparency of climate action.

AI is leveraged by the Swedish Forestry Agency to hunt spruce bark beetles, which in 2018 destroyed three to four million cubic meters of forests in Sweden, worth more than 100 million euros. Geo Satellite Intelligence uses AI and satellite imagery, accelerating the detection and monitoring of infested areas.

Back in the Swedish capital, the City of Stockholm launched a new MaaS project introducing UbiGo, an app that combines transport options from distinct providers. The app combats the issues of emissions, noise, and congestion, reducing private car use and accelerating the move towards sustainable mobility.

Data at the core of the solution

As these stories demonstrate, data is the lifeblood of the public sector, shaping and delivering better outcomes for citizens. The more data public sector organizations have, the better they can predict and personalize initiatives.

Data enables evidence based decision making, helping to create policy and legislation, and to monitor compliance. It empowers public sector organizations to deliver better services, create smarter and greener cities, and provide better healthcare and education for their citizens. Data and data sharing also identify, prioritize, and help citizens who might otherwise be excluded. Of course, organizations must always share and leverage data ethically, balancing innovation with trust. Otherwise, trust will be lost.

Navigating complex political landscapes through a stronger focus on data analytics

The working muscle of digitalization is data. As data availability is increasing in complete digital processes and applications, the capabilities for “strategic foresight” of policy measures have improved significantly. Even the application of tools such as digital twins in political processes is becoming possible. The German government has adopted a data strategy for this purpose. What matters – especially in the transformation decade of sustainability – is no longer compliance with formally correct processes, but increasingly whether and how measures taken have an effect.

Because data flows like water through the public sector, it also enables organizations to navigate complex political landscapes. On one level, data helps organizations measure and monitor their progress towards becoming climate neutral, striving to set the best example themselves. And on another level, it provides policymakers with the evidence base they need to create big picture, global policies.

These allow national governments to accelerate the fight against climate change through regulation and legislation. Of course, individual technology solutions can also help reduce emissions. And increase resilience to the effects of climate change. For example, with initiatives as diverse as the use of drones in agriculture, and sustainability initiatives aimed at public sector workers internally.

Inevitably, initiatives designed to counter climate change have their own, inherent environmental impacts. Organizations need monitoring and reporting systems to evaluate those impacts, and how they are financing them. Only then will climate change responses be truly transparent and sustainable.

Shaping the future of public sector policy

The fundamental role of technology in the fight against climate change is about data sharing and open data. And about creating spaces to support critical political discussions.

In this context, we believe the public sector needs to move from traditional mathematical modeling of CO2 emissions, to actually harnessing digital technology as an enabler. For example, by following the example of private sector to use sensors, drones, and satellite imaging to evaluate and measure carbon impact, and achieve sustainability.

Going forward, optimizing and orchestrating the benefits of technology trends will be the key to addressing climate change issues in the public sector. Policymakers need data-driven evidence to make effective decisions. They need to understand and model the impact and outcomes of their policies, and how policy changes impact outcomes. A key tool will be the monitoring of political adaption measures; a continuous impact measurement; and reporting by visualizing efforts to decision makers through a dashboard. This will increase coherence in policy decision making and, at the same time, decrease target conflicts. Without doubt, data is the fundamental core of any climate change solution.

For more information, read TechnoVision 2021 Public Sector Edition, our annual guide to what’s new and what’s coming next in the world of technology, focused on the public sector.


Vincent de Montalivet

Data for Net Zero Leader
Empowering sustainability with Data & AI innovation and culture change is a way to bring value generating transformation pathway for business, planet and society