Why Directors and CEOs Should Promote United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9



In my last blog, the UN’s eighth sustainability goal: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all ”, has been explored. This blog covers the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9 on Innovation and Infrastructure, and identifies ways in which AI adds value to support Goal 9, and also highlights market business models. relevant.

Innovation is essential to solve complex economic and environmental challenges, such as increasing resources and energy efficiency. Overall, investment in research and development as a percentage of GDP grew only from 1.5% in 2000 to 1.7% in 2015 and remained almost unchanged in 2017, but was only less than 1% in developing regions. This trend is not positive as we look to 2023, with the aftershock of the pandemic continuing to affect more than 3.6 billion people who remain offline, lack access to online education, ease of use or health and sanitation needs.

Let’s see some more facts:

  • In 2018, over 96% of the population lived within range of a mobile cellular signal, and 90% of people could access the Internet through a third generation (3G) or higher quality network.
  • The global share of manufacturing value added in GDP only increased from 15.2% in 2005 to 16.3% in 2017, with still the fastest growing manufacturing sector led by Asia. This decline will impact global infrastructure innovation and spill over into economies. The least developed economies, especially Africa, will continue to be the hardest hit.
  • In 2019, the amount of new renewable energy capacity added (excluding large hydropower) was the highest ever at 184 gigawatts, 20 GW more than in 2018. This included 118 GW of new solar systems and 61 GW of ‘wind turbines.
  • Capacity investment in solar fell 3% to $ 131.1 billion in 2019, while that in wind climbed 6% to $ 138.2 billion
  • R&D investment must accelerate, in 2014 $ 1.4 trillion was invested in R&D and in 2018 only $ 2.2 trillion

To modernize the infrastructure of our world, greater investments are essential in the infrastructure to fuel innovation, much of which depends on AI, Internet of Things and robotics to modernize the world. infrastructure, in particular on communication networks.

However, modern infrastructure also requires continued investment in roads, railways, necessary for the transport of goods and people, as well as ensuring that power plants can meet the needs of vast communication networks.

According to Oxford Economics, global investment in infrastructure is expected to rise to $ 94 trillion between 2016 and 2040. This is 19% more than what would be achieved under current trends, and represents an average of 3,700 billion dollars a year. To meet this investment need, the world will have to increase the proportion of GDP it devotes to infrastructure to 3.5%, against 3.0% expected according to current trends.

We also cannot forget this alarming fact that with Covid-19, the aviation industry has also lost over $ 300 billion due to the global pandemic, and airlines are one of our logistics and transport networks. most important transportation systems to support the dynamics of our global infrastructure.

In summary, therefore, investments in innovation and infrastructure around the world to achieve Goal 9 are not making their mark. Covid-19 on the one hand has propelled many industries forward, but on the other hand, the impacts in the manufacturing sector have greatly diminished. Deloitte’s projections based on the Oxford Economic Model (OEM) project lower levels of annual growth in manufacturing GDP for 2020-2021, with a forecast of -6.3% for 2020 and 3.5% for 2021 .

Despite these global market dynamics, investments in artificial intelligence have increased. Here are some more facts:

  • More than two-thirds of senior executives across all industries cite AI as vitally important to the future of their businesses and plan to increase their investments after the pandemic. the Increase ROI with AI Report shares that companies have increased their investments by 4.6% on average over the past year with an investment plan of 8.3% per year over the next three years,
  • Markets and markets experts predict that the market will reach $ 191 billion by 2025, a jump from the roughly $ 40 billion the market is currently valued at.

How can AI advance innovation and modernization of infrastructure?

As we already know, AI is a powerful engine of productivity and economic growth. AI is a great innovation that improves decision-making in almost any complex business process, given its appetite for analyzing large volumes of data and performing complex calculations that humans simply cannot perform.

Research launched by Accenture covering 12 developed economies, which together generate more than 0.5% of global economic output, predicts that by 2035, AI could double annual global economic growth rates.

AI enables a greater increase in labor productivity (up to 40%) thanks to innovative technologies allowing more efficient management of labor time. Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) further estimates that global GDP could grow by up to 14% (the equivalent of $ 15.7 trillion) by 2030 due to accelerated development and adoption of the IA.

Now let’s take a look at how AI supports innovations in infrastructure and highlight some initiatives in two sectors: construction and manufacturing and in the transport sector on the intelligence of road infrastructure.

AI in construction

Globally, companies spend more than 10 trillion dollars per year on construction-related activities and is expected to continue growing by 4.2% through 2023. In the McKinsey 2020 report, The Next Standard in Construction: How Disruption Shapes the World’s Largest Ecosystem, they identified a number of construction solutions using AI.

New ways of working in construction will be the accelerated use of robots to assess work progress, track the location of workers and equipment, allow project managers to instantly tell which sites have enough workers and equipment to complete the project on time, and which could be delayed where additional manpower could be deployed. The ability to aggregate the data models of all movements of equipment and people as human-machine interfaces continue to circulate information about the data will change the way construction is done.

Robotics, AI and the Internet of Things can reduce construction costs by up to 20%. Engineers will increasingly use virtual reality smart glasses and deploy smart robots and more mini-robots to perform repeatable work tasks. These robots will use cameras to track work as it progresses and report back, and even help plan the routing of electrical and plumbing systems in modern buildings for more agile planning. The AI ​​will be able to track real-time interactions of workers, machines and objects on site and alert supervisors to potential safety issues, construction errors, and summarize and report issues of productivity.

AI in transport / road intelligence

Roads are essential for people to transport goods and services, to conduct business, and cities play an important role as the infrastructure of megacities continues to be the home of life. Although Covid-19 has sent many residents to live in more remote and safer places, the attractiveness of smart infrastructure will reappear in 2022 as nothing we have experienced before.

The value of AI in smarter roads is that AI and IoT make it easier to monitor, collect, and analyze traffic patterns and allow adjustments or improvements to be made in real time. With sets of sensors, cameras, adaptive traffic lines, data collection methods, traffic can be easily redirected, identify road condition issues, and even analyze Co2 emission levels to support traffic. environmental objectives.

The reason why highway infrastructure intelligence deserves to be highlighted in UN Goal 9 is largely driven by this key fact: For the average American citizen, congestion costs 99 hours of their time and 1,377 USD every year. Smart roads technology can track vehicles and adjust traffic lights when there are fewer or no cars approaching, helping to prevent traffic between bumpers. It could help drivers and passengers save 9.4 hours per year.

Construction and (road) transportation industry are just two examples of significant changes enabled by AI, IoT, smart sensors, and massive data consumption and analysis methods.


Striving to advance United Nations goal 8 of accelerating innovation and modernizing infrastructure is a responsibility at the board and CEO level.

We need to have bolder conversations, show more courage and find ways to unlock more capacity for innovation and investment in infrastructure.

In addition, boards have an important role to play in ensuring that their CEO’s leadership effectively manages both the potential of AI and increasingly its organizational risks, including ethical risks and reputation.

It is part of the fiduciary responsibility of a board of directors to oversee AI and its potential impact on business, but also ethically on society and strive to make our world a better place.

More information:

the The United Nations developed in 2015 on Sustainable development goals as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve lives and prospects for everyone, everywhere. The 17 goals were adopted by all UN member states in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development who established a 15-year plan to achieve the goals.

To see the full AI Brain Trust framework featured in the first blog, see here.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.