Key decisions are needed in the next 12 months to set in motion a robust architecture and governance framework

An editorial by Jillian Campbell and David E Jensen, United Nations Environment Programme.

A range of frontier and digital technologies have dramatically boosted the ways in which we can monitor the health of our planet. And sustain our future on it.

If we can leverage this technology effectively, we will be able to assess and predict risks, increase transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources and inform markets as well as consumer choice. These actions are all required if we are to stand a better chance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, for this vision to become a reality, public and private sector actors must take deliberate action and collaborate to build a global digital ecosystem for the planet — one consisting of data, infrastructure, rapid analytics, and real-time insights. We are now at a pivotal moment in the history of our stewardship of this planet. A “tipping point” of sorts. And in order to guide the political action which is required to counter the speed, scope and severity of the environmental and climate crises, we must acquire and deploy these data sets and frontier technologies. Doing so can fundamentally change our economic trajectory and underpin a sustainable future.

Some of this work has already started. The UN Science-Policy Business Forum established a working group on “Data, Analytics and AI” back in May 2018. The aim was to kick-start a global conversation to seize opportunities and establish appropriate safeguards and effective governance. Over 100 stakeholders were involved. Among them were scientific and citizen-science research communities, government and policy institutions, a variety of technology companies and non-governmental organizations. Early in 2019, the working group produced a number of clear ideas making a strong case for a digital ecosystem. These are contained here “The Case for a Digital Ecosystem on the Environment”.

In many ways, we have invested at the atomic, genetic and cellular levels in global cooperation frameworks on a grand scale. Similar cooperation is now needed to build a digital ecosystem for our planet. This is the next logical progression. Our planetary security depends on it.

So here is the call to action. It is time for stakeholders in all domains to unite in building a common vision for a digital ecosystem of data, infrastructure, algorithms and insights to provide actionable evidence on our collective progress towards sustainable development.

A future that leverages the digital revolution for the planet is ours to imagine and create. The future is what we make it. And it is happening now.

This article has been edited from the original published on – full article

Relevant links

Work on Big Data gets a Big Boost

The Case for a Digital Ecosystem on the Environment (PDF)


Image: Gerd Altmann

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