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New technologies and their role in sustainable development

Daniela Morales Sánchez
Latam Bridge



Despite Latin America not being the poorest region in the world and experiencing great economic growth in recent years, it remains the most unequal. Thus, the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda – to end poverty in all its forms – resonates greatly for the development of the continent.

CEPAL indicates that while extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990, one in five people in developing regions still live on less than $1.25 a day, with millions at risk of slipping back into poverty. With manifestations of poverty including hunger, malnutrition, limited access to education, and limited access to other basic necessities, it is clear that economic indicators of growth are not enough to truly understand the complexity behind the apparent lag in development. However, an interesting question to make -although best left for another day- would be, development according to whom?

Thanks to the acceleration of the digital transformation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been able to better understand the roots of child malnutrition in rural communities in Honduras through integrated data analysis. Another interesting implementation of innovative technologies with the objective of tackling systemic poverty is the use of blockchain to transform the lives of Ecuadorean cocoa farmers.  The combination of modern technologies applied to ancient agricultural practices could be the key to preserving not only local farmers’ way of life, but the environment in which cocoa grows. Thus, from new ways of collecting and combining data to the implementation of new monitoring systems, data has proved critical for the creation of new solutions to age old problems.

Even if technology and cooperation with international organizations such as the UNDP has allowed these communities to attain better life conditions, opportunities and challenges remain for the achievement of this Sustainable Development Goal. The 2030 Agenda in Latin America in the Caribbean’s regional knowledge management platform identifies an opportunity for labour policies and labour market institutions to strengthen social protection policies, while also acknowledging the fact that there is a risk whatever progress has been made could be reversed in the current economic climate. As of this writing, we can also factor in the on-set of COVID-19 as a possible setback for continuous and sustained progress. The UNDP predicts that for the first time since the creation of the concept, global human development is on course to decline this year, foreshadowing the long-term effects the crisis will have on all accounts.

Leaving no one behind in the race towards achieving the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals implies thinking out of the box and breaking away from old ideas of what development entails. Economic growth is no longer the one and only indicator to observe as other preoccupations arise and different narratives occupy new spaces in a digital world and access to health, better education, and the preservation of culture come to the forefront as key aspects of a truly sustainable world where tradition can co-exist with the new.