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Digitalization is our sustainability solution.

The future is bright green, thanks to ICT

The power of positive thinking - digitalization is our sustainability solution

By Gavin Allen

At the tail end of September, two entirely unrelated debut events took place more than 15,000 kilometers apart. One was the inaugural International Carbon Handprint Awards in New York. The other was the first-ever Tech4City event in Singapore, organized by Huawei.

Different cities, different themes, different target audiences. And yet their central rallying cries unwittingly overlapped, resonating with the theme of this edition of Transform magazine: digital opportunity – the sheer unparalleled potential of technological innovation to embed reductions in carbon emissions and connect the unconnected. Together they provide the key to transforming the battle against climate change and turning that fight in our favor.

A sustainability machine
In New York it was the statistics that shone through: the scale of what the winning innovations would do to tackle emissions handprint tech to reduce others carbon “footprints”. In 2019, the last normal baseline year pre-Covid, London‘s greenhouse gas emissions were 31.4 MtCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent). Use of a single data-optimizing device from one of the award-winning companies on the night would save that much in just four years.

In Singapore it was a closing speech from the CEO of Huawei International Foo Fang Yong that stayed in the memory. Celebrating the innovative ideas from young tech entrepreneurs to improve the city’s cultural, environmental and community life, he reached for a quotation from Albert Einstein: “Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

Focus on the upside
And that sentiment was echoed by Luis Neves, CEO of the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), when we met to discuss the subject of digital opportunity for Transform.

“Digital technologies are fundamental to addressing climate change,” he told me, citing the enabling effect of ever-more imaginative innovation. “There is a lot of focus on the problem side, but we need to focus on the solution side.

Luis argues it’s a “universal right” for everybody to be connected: Once you provide connectivity, you are also providing the fundamental conditions to reduce carbon emissions.”

He cannot understand why digital is not at the heart of all climate change discussions and says showing CEOs the benefit of digital and sustainability combined that there are profits to be made – will be key. Because this is an atomic bomb, actually, that we could use to put the world on track.

Also in this edition, we'll hear how Huawei engineers slashed the cost of building a rural mobile base station from $330,000 to just $15,000… explain why viewing companies and countries only as sources of emissions could be an anti-innovation approach… preview a new White Paper on the green enabling effect of 5G… and take a look at four global snapshot studies highlighting how digital inclusion could:

  • Reinvigorate elderly populations in Malaysia
  • Rebuild rural counties in Kenya
  • Boost higher education in the Philippines, South Africa and Australia
  • Improve e-business and finance for micro-to-medium enterprises in eastern and southern Africa.

We’ll also show the real-life impact of Huawei’s commitment to connecting the unconnected with video stories from Bangladesh and France to Nigeria and, yes, even small-town America.

We hope this edition helps shift the focus away from solely being on the costs and restrictions of tackling climate change. Instead it’s time to start shining a brighter light on more positive enabling solutions.

Though we’d admittedly have to go some way to match the brightness of Luis Neves’s sustainability atom bomb…

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