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How technology can accelerate sustainability


How technology can accelerate sustainability

The year 2020, and the COVID-19 health crisis in particular, played a crucial role in bringing digitalisation to the forefront, fundamentally altering traditional business models and accelerating digital adoption across the globe. Companies are now seeing the many merits of digitalisation, especially pertaining to its potential to build a more liveable, sustainable future.

According to a recent report by the World Economic Forum and PwC called ‘Unlocking Technology for the Global Goals', two-thirds of the 169 targets underpinning the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be bolstered by technological innovation. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and blockchain, hold immense potential in tackling major environmental challenges such as climate change and decarbonisation. These disruptive innovations can enable us to monitor and manage the planet's resources at an unparalleled speed and scale. It is imperative to explore how advances in technology can drive sustainable change across industries and bring about positive economic and environmental outcomes.

Smart Agriculture

India's agriculture sector faces tremendous stress of water resources, desertification, and land degradation. In a bid to address the sustainability issues caused by climate unpredictability, greenhouse gas emissions and water crisis, the Indian government has deployed many AI-based solutions in agriculture. AI can be used in multiple domains of agriculture such as weather, crop and price forecasting, and yield estimation. In 2019, the government carried out many pilot studies for optimisation of crop cutting experiments under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojan; aimed at paring down the cost of farming while increasing productivity.

Among other notable technology-led initiatives was a crop yield prediction model using AI to provide real-time advisory to farmers. Here NITI Aayog partnered with IBM to provide insights to enhance crop productivity, increase soil yield, and control agricultural inputs with the goal of improving farmers' income. The Indian government also launched AI sensors for smart farming to enable small-holder farmers to increase their income via higher crop yield and greater price control.

Leveraging the power of technology, AB InBev, the world's leading brewer, has taken the lead in driving digitalisation in agriculture with its flagship platform KisanHub that harnesses data, technology and insights to help boost farmers' productivity. This innovative platform enables them to share advisories and weather alerts with farmers and help them optimise their on-field operations in case of climactic changes. It also helps the team virtually monitor crop growth, track insect-led damages to the crop, and acquire and consolidate data to understand the correlation between soil quality and crop output. Furthermore, AB InBev supports the livelihoods of farming communities worldwide, working with over 12,000 direct farmers to be skilled, connected and financially empowered. Even during COVID, the AB InBev team was able to stay connected with farmers which enabled the organization to continue procurement during the uncertainty caused by the lockdown. This enabled income generation for farmers in a very tough economic environment.


Fighting Climate Change

Climate change has been one of India's most crucial challenges to sustain GDP growth. With its expansive size and ecological diversity, India is already experiencing many of the worst impacts of climate change. If extreme weather conditions such as floods, drought, and heat waves continue, India will face the brunt of the climate crisis. Although India has made strides in its progress towards renewable energy sources and is on track to meet its Paris Agreement targets, it is still lacking in many areas, such as providing access to electricity and reducing pollution levels.

Technological intervention is needed in order to meet India's clean energy and climate goals and build climate resilience for the future. A Capgemini research in November 2020, titled 'Climate AI: How artificial intelligence can power your climate action strategy', revealed that 48 percent of organisations surveyed are using AI for climate action, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and improved power efficiency. Leveraging technologies such as AI and IoT can greatly help combat air pollution issues. They not only aid in monitoring pollution in real-time, but they can also help identify the source of pollution, what contribute to it and even aid in developing solutions to reduce it. AI and IoT together can further offer active management of energy systems as well, driving operational efficiency and cost management in renewable energy solutions such as solar panels and wind turbines.

It is now more important than ever for companies to make strategic investments in the development of technological interventions and prioritise sustainability initiatives in the continued fight for achieving environmental balance.