Imagine a world where electric grids can analyse its data in real time. With this information, energy supply can cater towards the specific needs of each citizen across both peak and non-peak periods. The potential for reducing energy wastage is significant.
This is an example of how technology can tackle climate change while ensuring citizen’s needs are met. Governments can use similar methods to lead climate action while serving citizens, shares Dannie Lau, Regional Purchasing and Environment Manager, NEC Asia Pacific Pte Ltd.
Lau shares four ways in which governments can lead the creation of sustainable societies.
A whole of society approach
A sustainable society can only be achieved through a whole-of-society approach, where governments, businesses, and international organisations work together to mitigate climate change, shares Lau.
For example, the UNDP is working with countries like Argentina and Tanzania to tackle environmental problems with citizen generated data. In Buenos Aires, volunteers cycled around the city with sensors to identify air pollution hotspots, the UNDP shared with GovInsider.
Government agencies can work with businesses to mitigate climate change as well.
The Australian government rewards businesses with carbon credits for every tonne of carbon emission reduced. It also sends evaluators to assess how energy efficient a business’ facilities are, shared Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
These initiatives relate to Japan’s broader Society 5.0 vision, where physical spaces are intertwined with digital technology. Tools like AI can then analyse how resources such as energy consumption are used, notes Lau.
A one stop digital platform for public services
Governments can further reduce carbon emissions by pooling public services into a one stop digital platform, shares Lau.
Digital public services will help to eliminate secondary activities that produce carbon emissions. When citizens can access services on their phones, they no longer have to travel to in-person agencies or submit paper forms, she explains.
In Denmark, NEC introduced a digital postal system for residents to receive digital documents from private and public sector agencies. This has significantly reduced carbon emissions and saved precious resources such as paper and water, Lau shares.
On top of that, government agencies can use the data collected in these one stop platforms to boost their citizen services. When government employees no longer need to work on manual tasks like collating forms, they can perform more value added tasks, she notes.
One way to do this is with AI, which can predict what a citizen needs and offer them targeted help. For example, it can identify which families may need more help, such as single-parent families, and identify which agencies might be most useful for their needs, she explains.
Another option is biometrics. Tools like facial recognition software reduce the chances of human error – you can’t forget your face the way you can forget your password, she notes. In the future, governments could implement biometrics across the board, Lau suggests.
Facial recognition is a “natural progression” from the current two-factor authentication Singapore uses in its digital identity system, Singpass, she continues.
Government agencies can lead the way for public and private organisations to work together, she suggests. Concerted efforts will help societies meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals faster, she explains. These goals are a blueprint for a sustainable future and were ratified in 2015 by 193 countries at the UN.
When the government leads the way, there is trust and security, which encourages collaboration between private agencies. Government agencies can connect all parties within a sector together by setting guidelines on common issues that companies can refer to, she suggests.
In turn, companies can work with the government to build industry-wide services that tackle climate change.
For instance, NEC responded to SGTech’s call to tackle the growing problem of electronic waste by advocating to repair electronics rather than throwing them away.
SGTech is Singapore’s leading association for the tech industry and where the largest community of tech businesses come together to be part of various sustainability solutions. Their mission is to lead the local tech industry towards SG Green Plan targets.
These partnerships enable companies to share best practices with each other. NEC uses data analytics to analyse energy and water usage as well as how much e-waste is generated. They use this data to set better targets and create more initiatives for reducing waste, she shares.
Such initiatives can be adopted by other organisations as well, she explains.
Boosting sustainability awareness
Environment-focused education will help to normalise this shift to more sustainable ways of working. Governments may initially feel that adopting new green practices is inconvenient and costly, Lau highlights.
But raising awareness about the benefits of sustainable tech can address this early hesitation. Demonstrating the potential for reduced waste and energy consumption will help government agencies to accept these changes to their status quo, she continues.
This education is not only valuable for the public sector, but for society as a whole. Lau shares that sustainability education in primary and secondary schools can be a good place for this environmental awareness to start.
Much like how it takes a village to raise a child, individual agencies or companies cannot tackle climate change on their own. Instead, public and private agencies need to collaborate to take meaningful steps in the fight against climate change.