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The report analysis establishes a clear correlation between digital access and SDG achievement; while the available data does not allow us to establish a causation link yet, further exploration of the research results can help us move closer to it. We selected three SDGs for this in-depth analysis: SDG 3 on health, SDG 5 on gender equality, and SDG 13 on climate action, covering the main areas of SDG impact: peoplegrowth, and the environment. The analysis touches on the specific indicators for each SDG, the relevant digital solutions beyond connectivity, and how we get closer to causation. Another four SDGs which could be the object of future in-depth analysis are also briefly presented in this section.

Good health and well-being

SDG 3 on good health and well-being is the social SDG with the strongest correlation link between access and achievement, and the second-strongest overall.

Progress towards SDG 3 achievement is measured by 14 indicators, 9 of which have a positive correlation with digital access (the relationship is unclear for the other 5, while none has a negative relation with access).

E-health is the most powerful solution beyond connectivity contributing to the SDGs: e-health solutions include remote diagnostics, health data storage, big data health analytics, personalized medicine, wearables and user devices.

The consistency of positive correlations of digital access with several health indicators is a first signal towards causality, as powerfully illustrated by the reduction in neonatal mortality that can be enabled by digital access: our research found that a 5% increase in access would translate into a 7.4% decrease in neonatal mortality. In Least Developed Countries, this would mean 2 newborns saved for every 1,000 live births.


Gender equality

For SDG 5 on gender equality, evidence is already available of a close-to-causal relationship between access and economic participation.

Progress towards SDG 5 achievement is measured by 4 indicators, 2 of which have a positive relationship with access (the relationship is unclear for the other 2).

While there is no gender-specific solution for improving gender equality, the power of connectivity for this Goal resides in digital fluency, the way women use connectivity and the technologies available – for instance to develop their skills, search for employment, or manage an economic activity. The Accenture Getting to Equal study has provided evidence that digital fluency positively impacts gender equality in the workplace.

Digital access can help close the education duration gap between female students and their male peers: our research found that a 5% increase in digital access would result in 0.5% increase in years of schooling for female learners, i.e. 2 additional weeks of schooling.


Climate action

With its focus on CO2 emissions, SDG 13 on climate action is highly relevant to the digital industry and global environment protection, as also demonstrated by the GeSI SMART series of reports.

The correlation with digital access is unclear for 2 of the 3 indicators for SDG 13 achievement, and negative for the third. However, when looking in more detail at the impact of digital solutions on CO2 emissions after removing other factors such as GDP, our research found a net positive impact. While the digital sector obviously has a carbon footprint, the extensive data available show that, when taking into account the efficiency gains and emissions reduction it can enable in other sectors, its overall net impact is positive.

Digital solutions with the potential to reduce emissions can be applied in sectors such as agriculture, building, energy, manufacturing, and mobility, in addition to software and apps to capture and quantify efficiency gains.

Our research found that a 5% increase in digital access could reduce consumption-based CO2 emissions by 1.6%, or 530 Megatons CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of 468 coal plants.