Anthony J. Pennings, PhD

WRITINGS ON DIGITAL STRATEGIES, ICT ECONOMICS, AND GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

ICT4D and Digital Development in a Changing World

Posted on | December 14, 2022 | No Comments

Prepared remarks as moderator for the 2nd Annual ICT4D Faculty Panel: Digital Development in a Changing World. Monday, Nov 28, 2022 at the State University of New York, Korea (SUNY Korea) in Songdo, Republic of Korea.

This year, 2022, marks the halfway point for the Agenda for Sustainable Development, aimed for completion by 2030. Created by the United Nations during the time of Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were approved by the General Assembly for completion by 2030. SDGs were meant to create a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.“ At this halfway point, the SDGs face new challenges and opportunities.

This panel will address issues related to Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) and some of the challenges coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, including geopolitical constraints on material supplies and digital technologies.

SDGs are Sustainable Development Goals

A contemporary concern threatening digital and sustainable development is the strength of the US dollar, the primary global reserve currency and vehicle for over 80% of international transactions. A worldwide shortage of the dollar (except in the US, apparently) increased its nominal value and turned it into an appreciating investment instrument, raising the purchase price. A strong US dollar makes imports more expensive, including digital and renewable energy technologies. Purchasing smart devices, even the less expensive ones like Orange’s Sanza Touch, a 4G Android device, can become more expensive. Solar panels, windmills, and other renewable technologies are also likely to be imported and additional dollars are needed for those as well. It may be that an alternate to the dollar emerges in the next several decades, maybe even a crypto version, but that doesn’t seem likely right now.[1]

Another issue is the looming limitation on material supplies, particularly on valuable elements and metals needed for ICTs and renewable energy technologies. A sustainable revolution needs massive shifts toward infrastructure development, and that means higher demand for a wide range of resources that need to be mined, refined, and distributed. The loss of crucial materials from Russia and Ukraine means energy, food, and natural resource shortages that will influence green development. Steel, nickel, aluminum, copper, bauxite, neon, palladium, etc., critical elements of modern technologies, have suffered heavy supply shocks. Food supplies are also increasingly insecure with potash and nitrogren-based fertilizers produced from natural gas becoming more scarce. Constraints on ICTs, natural resources, and renewable energies will present significant challenges for meeting the objectives and targets of the SDGs.

Relentless pollution and atmospheric changes affecting climate security also drive strategic questions affecting digital development. At stake are biodiversity, ocean acidification, and human habitats prone to droughts, floods, and wildfires. ICT solutions have been identified for their potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 15 percent by 2030.[2] Greenhouse gases increase the atmosphere’s temperature, allowing it to absorb more water. More moisture in the air means more weather volatility leading to droughts in some areas while increasing the intensity of hurricanes/typhoons along ocean coasts. For example, Hurricane Ida in late August of 2021 was extremely intense. After it came out of the Gulf of Mexico to hit Louisana, it had enough energy and moisture to travel north across the US mainland and drop in on New York City and surrounding areas, killing an additional 50 people.

Meanwhile, a number of factors present hope for a sustainable future and the role of ICT. Green funding has increased, particularly with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the US, and hopefully, recent commitments at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) will be fruitful for climate justice and well as continued reductions in air pollution. Green New Deals are spreading worldwide, particularly in the stressed EU that had counted too much on Russian imports of hydrocarbons.

Korea has also envisaged a Green New Deal along with a Digital New Deal under the previous Moon administration, stressing its “fast follower” strategy to capitalize on its export industries to solve world problems while providing a protective safety net at home. Japan even recently voted Hyundai Motor’s all-electric Ioniq 5 SUV as its “Import Car of the Year.

Korean Green New Deal

Technological innovations have also been striking. Battery innovations, especially for long-term storage by companies like Ambri, can soothe the shortages of intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar. While many battery materials are scarce, spent cobalt, lead, and lithium in batteries can be successfully recycled.

Most significantly, the economics of renewables, with admittedly huge upfront investment requirements, have near-zero marginal costs over medium and long-term time frames. For example, once a windmill is constructed and operating, the subsequent costs are minimal, and as it produces electricity, wind “prints” money.

Climate awareness offers hope and motivation. Many climate deniers are still questioning the basic science and physical evidence, but the political will is growing to take impactful action to mitigate weather-related disasters and adapt to the changes.

What is the continuing role of ICT for Development (ICT4D) in this emerging post-COVID-19 environment? The Earth Institute has identified three key ICT (Information and Communications Technology) accelerators of the SDGs. These are mobility, broadband, and cloud services, such as platforms using AI and “big data.” These technologies can often “leapfrog” legacy communication and database systems to provide new efficiencies and opportunities in agriculture, education, energy, and healthcare. For example, while needing to be monitored with data justice precepts, digital ID programs can provide new eligibilities for financial inclusion, personal ownership, and social programs such as health services.

These key accelerators were woven into the BS in Technological Systems Management (TSM) specialization in ICT4D (Formerly ICT4SD) at SUNY Korea. This forum brings together a panel of faculty that teach these courses, including EST 371 – Data Science Management, EST 372 – The Mobile Revolution in Development, and EST 320 – Communication System Technologies, as well as today’s audience from EST 230 – ICT for Sustainable Development. We also cover related topics in our MS degree in Technological Systems Management, which includes a specialization in Digital Technologies in Disaster Risk Reduction. And, of course, several of our Ph.D. students in the Technology, Policy, and Innovation (TPI) program have pursued related research topics for their dissertations. All our degrees are conferred by Stony Brook University in New York.

Please welcome our faculty to today’s panel discussion.

James Larson
Suzana Brown 
Sira Maliphol
Jinsang Lee
Joseph Cabuay
Sangchan Park

Citation APA (7th Edition)

Pennings, A.J. (2022, December 14). ICT4D and Digital Development in a Changing World. apennings.com https://apennings.com/sustainable-development/ict4d-and-digital-development-in-a-changing-world/

[1] The US dollar has been global since the 1950s as eurodollars, and had electronic versions since the late 1860s.
[2] Sachs, J. D. (n.d.). ICT and SDGs: How Information and Communications Technology Can Accelerate Action on the Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/e-agriculture/news/ict-and-sdgs-how-information-and-communications-technology-can-accelerate-action-sustainable

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AnthonybwAnthony J. Pennings, PhD is a professor at the State University of New York (SUNY), Korea. Previously, he taught at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and was on the faculty of New York University from 2002-2012. He also taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and was a Fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii in the 1990s. He heads up the ICT4D specialization at SUNY Korea.

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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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