As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, frontier technologies are playing a pivotal role in slowing the spread of this global pandemic. A new ITU/UN report – “Frontier technologies to protect the environment and tackle climate change” – highlights how these frontier technologies are also being used to accelerate solutions to address another wide-reaching global issue: climate change. Below is the ITU Secretary-General’s Foreword to the report.
A digital revolution is sweeping across the world, driven by the emergence of frontier technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to the Internet of Things and 5G. Whether we are dealing with rising sea levels, biodiversity loss, water shortages, air quality or food security, these technologies hold great potential for addressing the root causes and already devastating effects of the climate crisis.
This timely report examines the implications and applications of frontier technologies, including their impact on the environment. It takes us inside the United Nations system and beyond to explore how these innovative technologies are being used in areas as diverse and critical as smart cities, earth monitoring, natural disaster risk reduction, e-waste and water and electricity management.
ITU is at the forefront of this digital revolution. We harmonize the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, broker international standards and help ensure coherent policy and regulatory frameworks for these fast-changing technologies. With influential platforms like the Green Standards Week, ITU brings public and private actors together to identify Internet of Things and artificial intelligence applications that can improve the quality and sustainability of life on the planet.
For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population is using the Internet. Inequalities in how frontier technologies are distributed and used risk creating new and evolving digital divides. At stake is the ability to bring the benefits of the digital revolution to everyone, including all those in developing countries, least developed countries and Small Island Developing States who are on the frontline of climate change.
The UN family has a key role to play in building a global digital ecosystem for the environment. This report is a call to action, an open invitation for governments, civil society, academia, the scientific community and the technology industry to join UN agencies in their effort to leverage frontier technologies to tackle one of the defining issues of our time.
The report highlights the latest findings from case studies in eight frontiers:
- Artificial Intelligence to reduce air pollution and manage e-waste
- Internet of Things for smart energy infrastructure
- 5G for smart water management
- Clean energy technology
- ‘Digital twin’ cities for disaster modelling
- Robotics to monitor marine life
- Space 2.0 technologies for climate monitoring
- Digitalization and Big Data for food security
The report was developed by ITU together with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); UN Environment; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); United Nations Global Compact; United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat); United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); and with the support of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).