Accelerating Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals

After a participatory process with Association for Progressive Communication (APC) member organizations, APC and the Latin American Institute of Terraforming write a joint input for the new UN digital governance process: the Global Digital Compact (GDC) where we highlight the socio-environmental impacts of digitization. Also, based on that document, on June 14th, 2023, we made a three-minute presentation at the “GDC Thematic Deep-Dive on Accelerating Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” where States, the private sector, and civil society shared their perspectives. This was our intervention:

The 21st century is marked by two major processes: the climate and ecological crisis and the fast digitalization of the planet.

Achieving sustainable development goals cannot only mean focusing on the possibilities of digitization but also taking the socio-environmental impacts of digital technologies seriously not to jeopardize SDGs such as “sustainable cities and communities,” “responsible consumption and production,” “climate action,” and “life on land.”

The dominance of techno-capitalist economic logic in public and private technological developments is characterized primarily by an ever-increasing reliance on vast amounts of infinitely growing data and resources, which are also often geared towards producing “customer profiles” to drive ever-increasing consumption.

This logic has had clear repercussions for human rights -especially in the global south- and the sustainability of digitization throughout its life cycles: from the enormous need for natural resources required for manufacturing digital infrastructures, including the increasing exploitation of minerals and the use of vast amounts of freshwater, to the growing demand for energy and its carbon footprint production, as well as its constant display of toxic waste driven by the industry's programmed obsolescence.

Moreover, technological systems managed by companies or governments are becoming increasingly powerful in society; however, the participation of the people in its decision-making, especially the communities most affected by the socio-environmental impacts of their infrastructure, is scarce.

Due to these challenges, at least two principles and commitments among stakeholders should be considered:

One: Digital developments must respect planetary boundaries.

Digitalization must develop and prosper without threatening its ecosystem or sacrificing the integrity of the biosphere and respecting the diversity and plurality of cultures and communities in the territories where digital technologies are deployed, materially or digitally.

And two: Access to environmental justice is a fundamental goal of digital governance through strengthening collective and environmental rights and meaningful and broader participation processes.

Digital governance must strengthen environmental and collective rights so that digital developments do not violate the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Moreover, social and environmental inequalities must be at the center of “digital governance action” since the only way to counteract the climate and ecological crisis is to work against them and their different manifestations.