We need digital skills to program our Net Zero future
At a Glance
As COP27 draws to a close, we have heard a great number of governments and businesses commit to the type of investment that is needed to secure a more sustainable present and future.
5 Minute Read
A key part of this challenge that policymakers have been grappling with for a decade or more is how to make that vision a reality. Money is part of the equation, but money alone does not deliver innovation and lasting change, and neither does ambition. We can make all the commitments in the world, but it will be increasingly difficult to deliver Net Zero without the technological solutions to support sustainable new ways of working and living.
A decade ago, when I was asked by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to take over the environmental brief at City Hall, I agreed to do so on condition that it go hand-in-hand with the responsibility for developing London’s digital agenda.
Back then, we were looking at the development of what became Tech City – the emergence of new start-up digital businesses, and the creation of digital services and apps which changed the way we managed everything from our bank accounts to our social lives over the decade that followed.
At the time, I believed the sustainable development of London had to have technology at its heart, in order to measure, analyse and explain our progress towards our goals.
Now I am more convinced than ever that technology and sustainability are inseparable – but I had it the wrong way round. Far from being merely a tool for tracking and reporting, digital solutions are the driving force enabling us to be more sustainable in what we do.
In a recent survey of 400 executives from various industries and regions conducted by Bain & Company and the World Economic Forum, 40% of respondents said they believe digital technologies are already having a positive impact on their sustainability goals.
This has been the journey of the last decade, as digital decarbonisation tools have slowly become more prominent in the climate agenda – but they still need to be more central to the discussion.
That’s why at Atos we established our Tech for Climate Summit as a part of COP26 and again for COP27 – to help highlight what we see as the inextricable link between digital technologies and decarbonisation. It is why we have committed to this agenda as a business, through our corporate vision to deliver secure and decarbonised digital services.
However, there is an elephant in the room. As a technology business, skills have always been fundamental, but they are becoming an ever more acute challenge because the pool of people we need to power a sustainable future is not growing fast enough.
The Government already has a plan for Levelling Up the country, with jobs at its heart – but now we need to go a step further and think about Innovating Up – ensuring that we are developing the skills we need now and for the future in every region to support sustainable growth.
The Covid-19 pandemic turbo-charged many changes in our lives and in the world around us. Critically, the daily commute is no longer essential, and it is possible for more people to live and work productively outside the major cities. But these societal changes require the right digital infrastructure to be in place and need local employers to have access now and ongoing to a pipeline of skilled people to map to the skilled jobs they can deliver.
Our Innovating Up initiative is designed to help join the dots at a local level – working with employers, local and national government, private sector partners and regional strategic bodies to help identify and deliver the right skills in the right places, so digital jobs and skills that will deliver more innovation and sustainable services can be planned for now and the future.
A key part of Innovating Up is the partnership with techUK. Together, we are taking the findings of techUK’s Local Digital Capital Index, a barometer on the strength of local digital ecosystems across the UK, to work with businesses, business groups and political leaders to identify the specific needs of local economies.
In fact, we are already working with Blackpool Pride of Place Partnership to bring together business groups, the community, employers and local decision makers to deliver lasting change in Blackpool and bring high quality jobs and skills to the local area.
With the world gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh over the last two weeks, it is traditional to only look at climate change as a global issue – but it will be solved locally and with a large dollop of technology.
Yes, we need to agree targets and commitments by nations and with industries, but the delivery of skills at a local level will be critical to achieving Net Zero because those skills, that innovation, are needed if we are to come up with the right solutions now and going forward if we are to have any realistic hope of meeting the 1.5C target.
Innovating Up – Further Insights
From across Atos and beyond, find out more about digital transformation, jobs of the future and skills