The role of the private sector to mobilizing ICT for realizing the SDGs can take various forms.
- Innovation: The 2030 Agenda called on all businesses to “apply their creativity and innovation to solving sustainable development challenges”. Some global technology companies have made efforts to connect those unconnected to the Internet through new services such as Free Basics from Facebook, or Project Loon (balloon-connected Internet for everyone) from Google. Innovation is also important in many other areas such as creating the kind of smart phones most adapted to the situation in some developing countries.
- Investment: The UN General Assembly, when it reviewed the implementation of the WSIS after ten years, recognized the critical importance of private sector investment in ICT infrastructure, content and services. It encouraged Governments to create legal and regulatory frameworks conducive to increased investment and innovation. According to a World Bank study, a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration would increase GDP growth by 1.21% in developed economies and 1.38% in developing ones.
- Partnerships: The WSIS asked for building on and accelerating public-private partnerships, focusing on the use of ICTs in development. The 2030 Agenda likewise recognizes the role of public-private and other partnerships in realizing the goals. More public-private partnerships are needed to leverage the solutions, scale and resources that the private sector can bring to sustainable development challenges, as well as to stimulate innovation and growth among SMEs, for example, incubate new ICT start-ups to provide locally appropriate services.
- Mainstreaming the SDGs in companies’ regular operations: It is increasingly recognized that corporate responsibility involves not only “doing no harm”, but also “doing good”. Businesses are thus encouraged to find strategies whereby they can both conduct business and advance the SDGs. The Global Compact has developed “SDG Compass”- a tool to guide companies to align their strategies with the SDGs, and measure and manage their impacts. A survey conducted by PWC a year ago showed that 71% of business consulted was already planning how they will engage with the SDGs.For example, EMC, a leader in the information technology (IT) industry, is known for creating technological solutions to sustainability challenges. Since 2010, the company has been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) every year, in recognition of their leadership in inclusive business activities. In other cases, General Mills gives meals to local food banks which helps to realize SDG 2 - Zero Hunger. LEGO funds children’s play, learning, and creativity and Microsoft delivers free Microsoft Office Software to schools to support the SDG 4: Quality Education implementation. IBM’s Intelligent Water software contributes to SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production by delivering insights from data to help utilities manage water pressure; detecting leaks; reducing water consumption; mitigating sewer overflow; and better managing water infrastructure, assets, and operations.
- Engaging in national and other dialogues on shaping the information society and developing e-strategies. The original WSIS mandate emphasizes the effective participation of all stakeholders in development of e-strategies including through public/private partnerships, in devising e-strategies for the Information Society and for the exchange of best practices. Such inclusive dialogues can also help create an environment where the private sector can more easily help mobilize ICT for the SDGs. A survey by the Global Compact showed that an overwhelming majority of CEOs (83%) want governments and policymakers to increase efforts to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to pursue sustainability.