Clockwise: Thomas Ernsting/laif, istock/subman, Tony Law/Redux/laif
Clockwise: Thomas Ernsting/laif, istock/subman, Tony Law/Redux/laif

Headline: Digitalisation and Impacts on Sustainability


Digital technologies have become ever more ubiquitous in recent years, impacting across society and the economy. Yet it remains unclear whether the growing application of digital technologies in the communication, industrial and service sectors will foster or impede the transition towards sustainable development. Is the digital revolution contributing to efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? How can we reconcile the growing energy footprint of digital technologies with efforts to transition to a low-carbon energy system? And do new digital communication technologies have a positive impact on democratic processes? The research project "Digitalisation and Impacts on Sustainability" studies the many different impacts of digital technologies and services.

Can digitalisation create sustainable economies?

One of the project's goals is to learn more about the opportunities that digitalisation creates in the field of industrial production. Could the digitalisation of industrial processes - also referred to as Industry 4.0 - make them more sustainable? Will it change our demand for natural resources? And if so, how? What role will people play within this new production model? How can businesses use digital technologies to improve their management of sustainability challenges? Researchers will also study the global impacts of the digitalisation of industrial production and its ability to advance development pathways that are both equitable and sustainable.

Does e-governance foster participation?

The governance of sustainability processes at the local, national and international levels is another of the project's areas of focus. Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the effect of digital technologies on governance and leadership processes to ensure that transitions towards sustainable development are democratic and equitable. Does e-governance help to create a level playing field for the various actors in these transformation processes? The team will explore this question with diverse actors in workshops and other research formats.

The project's findings will be published in scientific papers, dossiers, case studies and in an anthology that will explore a variety of sustainability challenges within the context of Industry 4.0.

In the video "Digitalisierung und Nachhaltigkeit", the researchers explain their project (in German).