The realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) often referred to as Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, will need a microscopic review as we begin a new decade.
The role dynamic technologies cannot be ignored in delivering the SDGs. Modern technologies and innovations can fast track the development agenda targets if embraced.
Technology is likely to increase productivity and reduce the cost of goods and services, enabling the faster and wider deployment of novel solutions to economic, social and environmental obstacles in development.
Besides, supporting inclusive forms of participation in socio-economic life and replacing environmentally costly modes of production with more sustainable ones.
Significantly, technological innovations can provide policymakers with an enabling platform as well as powerful tools to design and plan development interventions, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Council 2019.
To begin with, Big Data and machine learning can be used to create, measure and develop and monitor the effectiveness of development programmes and progress towards the SDGs.
This necessitates critical thinking among the youth to sharpen their skill-sets to align with such technologies. This will not only bridge the gap in technology literacy but also will create sustainable jobs such as the provision of evidence-based data within counties.
This provides platforms for counties to invest in the infrastructure, nurture the innovation ecosystem and absorptive capacities necessary for frontier technologies to fulfil their potential. With such facilities, each county can develop specific SDG road map in support of the global targets.
Second, remote sensing, drones and artificial intelligence may propel precision farming, reducing the number of agrochemical inputs for existing agricultural processes to improve food security and nutrition.
Drones have the leapfrogging opportunity in precision agriculture, enabling effective measurement of and response to variability in crop and animal production in Kenya and the rest of Africa.
Genetic sequencing, along with machine learning, is being used to detect soil quality and help increase crop quality. What is more, farming is becoming increasingly automated, with robots carrying out weeding of row crops.
As such, this sprouts techno-preneurship ventures in defining research agendas that focus on smallholder farmers, investing in human capacity and redesigning the infrastructure for food systems.
Policymakers should put in place governance structures for agricultural innovation and boost farmer-scientist knowledge flows.
Third, the Internet of things has supported the productive upgrading of the economies of developing countries. For example, last November, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa launched the 50 Million African Women Speak Project. The project leverages e-commerce platforms to provide an enabling economic and social empowerment arena for women across 38 African countries through networking to access market information on financial and non-financial services.
The digital platform, which is accessible on mobile devices and the Web, empowers women in Africa to start, grow and scale up businesses. This has gone a long way in poverty eradication, promoted new sources of employment and income as well as access to new markets.
Significantly, in promoting energy access and efficiency, the convergence technologies are the interaction in smart grids between renewable technologies and data and artificial intelligence technologies. For example, machine-learning algorithms can be used to predict the output of wind farms, allowing scheduled energy delivery to the grid.
Energy production and distribution are also improved by allowing households with solar panels to feed surplus energy back into the electricity grid. The real-time information provided by smart grids helps utility companies better respond to demand, power supply, costs and emissions and to avert major power outages.
Therefore, for the planet to survive, academia, industry, politics and civil society ought to collaborate, communicate and build consensus on innovative solutions that catalyse the implementation of SDGs while providing the youth with the creative and innovative space to sprout techno-preneurship ventures.
Pamela Okutoyi and Nancy Marangu via e-mail