Since 2016, each Digital Summit has focused on a different key topic. After digital education in 2016, digitisation in the healthcare sector in 2017, artificial intelligence (AI) in 2018 and digital platforms in 2019, this year’s focus is on more sustainability by means of digitisation.
This year’s summit will thus be dealing with two megatrends that are increasingly driving our day-to-day lives. In September 2015, the Member States of the United Nations adopted the Agenda 2030. The aim is to improve people’s living conditions and at the same time keep our planet worth living in for future generations.
Germany is also committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which it has specified in the German Sustainability Strategy. The current debate and the latest proposals by the European Commission on the Green Deal focus on measures to mitigate climate change. Apart from the ecological goals, however, sustainability also includes economic and social goals, which we should not lose sight of. Economic growth and innovation are elements of sustainable development just like climate action, environmental protection and the fight against poverty.
These goals are closely linked. Economic growth is necessary to safeguard prosperity and the welfare state, and finance the sustainable transformation. From the sustainability point of view, however, it is important to adapt the economic dynamism in qualitative terms, i.e. to generate resource-efficient and climate-neutral growth. The aim must be to break the link between economic growth and the use of resources.
We have already achieved a fair bit in Germany: the use of raw materials has remained virtually stable, energy consumption has fallen and CO2 emissions have declined whilst the economy has grown. But there is still a long way to go.
Digitisation can take us a big step forward. This applies to the development of new products and business models that serve to reach sustainability goals, and to the optimisation of existing processes.
Digital technologies can thus make the energy transition and the transport transition possible. They are the prerequisite for low-energy and recource-efficient production processes, help us to optimise the circular economy, create more security, and enable elderly people to lead self-determined lives in their own homes. In agriculture, digital applications contribute to reducing the pollution of soil and groundwater and enhancing biodiversity.
In view of the increasing use of digital services, however, we also need to pay more attention to the energy and resources consumption of IT itself. We need to make full use of the savings and efficiency potential and look for new innovative approaches.
This year, the Digital Summit and its large network will be focusing on the question how digitisation can become a driver of sustainability. It aims to raise awareness of the possibilities of digitisation, to hold events and put on exhibitions and showcases which encourage others to follow its example, and to develop projects that make the world more sustainable by means of digital technologies.
The Summit’s platforms have taken on this task and will present the results of their work at the summit.