There is a clear, positive correlation between digital transformation and progress across approximately 65% of the SDG goals (about 11 of the 17)
Is digital transformation a process, a service, improved data collection, and analysis or increased adoption of digital technology? It is all of this and some more. In terms of the SDGs and Vision 2030, digital transformation, quite simply:
- Is comprehensive and inclusive
- Provides opportunities in innovative financing, partnership, knowledge sharing, and delivery of goals
- Improves the quality, relevance, and efficiency of all efforts: big and small.
According to the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), digital transformation is and will be indispensable to progress across the indicators of several goals, one of which is Goal 4 (Quality Education) (“Guest Article: Enabling the Global Goals: How Digital Solutions Can Help Achieve the SDGs | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD”, 2018). As compared to the rest of the world, the EU has made the most significant progress across its set benchmarks set for Goal 4. By 2018, the share of the population aged 30 – 34 having completed tertiary education or an equivalent had increased to at least 40%, and now in 2020, the number of employed recent graduates in the EU is approaching the set benchmark (current percentage: 81.6% to benchmark: 82%) (Sustainable development in the European Union, 2019). Ireland’s Goal 4 indicators, like most of the EU, are in good standing, with the country ranking 3rd in charts for this Goal and scoring a 90.02% as its Goal 4 Index (“#DigitalAccessIndex”, n.d.).
In both Ireland and the rest of the EU, digital transformation is fast becoming one of the core enablers in the provision of quality education for all.”
Inarguably, digital transformation cannot be effective without digital access. By all standards, Ireland outperforms most of the EU and the rest of the world with regards to improving digital access across the age groups in the country. By March 2020, 100% of the 16 – 29 age group had access to the internet.
Given that millions of people were in full lockdown by 18th March 2020 in the EU (27th March for Ireland), digital access became even more essential as schools scrambled to hasten the transition from traditional teaching and learning models to remote modules earlier than expected. Over the past 5 years, both Ireland and the rest of the EU have seen an explosion of growth in the number of initiatives seeking to make digital transformation one of the core enablers in the provision of quality education for all.
- Ireland – The Digital Schools of Distinction Award, recognizing primary schools committed to integrating digital solutions in teaching and learning. Overall, this program aims to acknowledge and encourage all registered ICT-forward schools (“About the Digital Schools of Distinction Award – Digital Schools of Distinction”, 2014).
- Ireland – The Digital Strategy for Schools 2015 – 2020, developed and being implemented by the Department of Education. Amongst its key objectives, one of the most important is extending the teaching and learning process beyond the four walls of a classroom. The creation of Scoilnet, an invaluable resource providing access to over 19,000 curricula, fun games, and activities to students, teachers, and parents alike, is one of such products of this Strategic Plan (Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment (Implementation): 2019 Digital Strategy Action Plan, 2019).
- The EU – The Digital Education Action Plan was raised to meet the growing demands of education in an increasingly digitally connected world, partially as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic (“Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) – Education and Training – European Commission”, 2020).
- The EU – Heinnovate is a platform used by higher education institutes to gauge their innovation potential. The importance of social entrepreneurship in achieving Vision 2030 cannot be overemphasized. With the EU being one of the densest SDG-related startup regions, this tool proves to be invaluable in providing data on how higher education institutes promote entrepreneurial journeys amongst their students, faculty, and staff and how they either succeed at this or fall short (“Homepage | Heinnovate”, n.d.).
Inequalities and Disparities might be highlighted in the quest to hasten the provision of quality education using digital transformation as a tool.”
Progress towards Goal 4 is a step in the right direction for the other SDGs. Quality education is a precursor to breaking the cycle of generational poverty, gender and inequality disparities, and the adoption of sustainable living practices. But like most of the other SDGs, progress has stalled or is not moving at a fast enough pace to achieve Vision 2030 in the EU and in Ireland (Sustainable development in the European Union, 2019). Digital access and transformation provide a good solution to breaking this stalemate. However, with Moore’s law disproved in the previous decade and technology advancing far beyond what our ancestors even dreamed of, digital transformation and its effects are not fully understood. How do we create an effective digital strategy to increase the efficacy of efforts dedicated to Goal 4? In as much as the SDGs interconnectedness and its intrinsic system-based design proves to be an asset in advancing progress towards Vision 2030, inequalities and disparities might be highlighted with the evolution of digital transformation. It is therefore important that effective digital strategies be curated and deployed to enable the positive correlation between digital transformation and Goal 4 to be improved.
DigitalAccessIndex. Retrieved 29 March 2021, from https://digitalaccessindex-sdg.gesi.org/data-tool/#correlation_result
About the Digital Schools of Distinction Award – Digital Schools of Distinction. (2014). Retrieved 29 March 2021, from http://www.digitalschools.ie/about/
Department of Education and Skills. (2019). Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, Enhancing Teaching, Learning and Assessment (Implementation): 2019 Digital Strategy Action Plan [E-book] (p. p4). Retrieved from https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/digital-strategy-action-plan-2019.pdf
Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) – Education and Training – European Commission. (2020). Retrieved 29 March 2021, from https://ec.europa.eu/education/education-in-the-eu/digital-education-action-plan_en
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Homepage | Heinnovate. Retrieved 29 March 2021, from https://heinnovate.eu/en
Imprimerie Bietlot. (2019). Sustainable development in the European Union [E-book] (pp. 9, 95 – 103). Belgium. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/3217494/9940483/KS-02-19-165-EN-N.pdf/1965d8f5-4532-49f9-98ca-5334b0652820?t=1573202053000
Ireland’s UN SDGs 2019 – Report on Indicators for Goal 4 Quality Education – CSO – Central Statistics Office. (2020). Retrieved 29 March 2021, from https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-sdg4/irelandsunsdgs2019-reportonindicatorsforgoal4qualityeducation/
SDSN & IEEP. (2019). The 2019 Europe Sustainable Development Report. Paris and Brussels. Retrieved from https://ieep.eu/publications/2019-europe-sustainable-development-report
UNDP Digital Strategy: Pathways to the SDG’s. (2019). Retrieved 29 March 2021, from https://digitalstrategy.undp.org/strategy.html