Technology is transforming sustainable development. But it also carries the risk of widening the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Here’s how we’re working to leave no one behind.

“To ensure that the benefits of technological innovation are shared by all, we need policy responses and business decisions that are guided by the commitment to end extreme poverty, curb inequalities, and fast-track progress for the people who have been left furthest behind.” Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

You don’t need to look far or long to see how digital technology is transforming our world. The availability of more and faster internet connections, satellite data and imagery, plus advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) have made our lives and our economies unrecognizable from just a generation ago.

These innovations and others offer new means of addressing complex global challenges, with the potential to unlock long-term and sustainable prosperity for people and planet. However, this unprecedented transformation also poses a serious risk of widening the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and fuelling even greater inequalities both between and within countries.

As part of our commitment to leave no one behind, UNDP is engaging with these issues from both a programmatic and policy perspective. We’re harnessing technology and innovation to deliver more and better results in the countries and communities where we work. We’re also seeking opportunities to put transformative technologies in the hands of the poor and marginalized.

Curse or Cure?

Fulfilling the 2030 Agenda’s pledge to “leave no one behind” must to take into account a world that is undergoing profound transformations. One of these is the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, characterized by an unprecedented speed of technological change. On the side-lines of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner led a discussion on the topic of “Curse or Cure? Leaving No One Behind in an Age of Technological Revolution”.

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Energy for the future

Whether it’s drone-supported climate change adaptation or block chain for financial inclusion, digital technologies are transforming the way we do our work. As outlined in our Strategic Plan 2018-2021, we’re putting greater emphasis on innovation and experimentation to drive progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

One way we’re doing that is by bringing proven renewable energy technology to more and more communities that need it. We’ve seen that a simple solar panel has the power to change lives.

Lights on in Lebanon

From streetlights to stoves and solar kits – see how access to energy has changed the lives of three women in Lebanon.


Making a splash

Solar isn’t just for lighting. It is also helping to boost agricultural livelihoods by powering irrigation systems from Cabo Verde to Cambodia.


On the grid

In Eritrea, an entire community comes together to build a solar mini-grid and supply power to 40,000 people and local businesses.


The information age

Information is at the centre of the digital revolution. Satellite imagery is proving useful in combatting deforestation, while mobile phone-based information systems are helping to boost agricultural productivity. In healthcare, artificial intelligence may even improve the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment.

Today we have access to exponentially more information, data and ideas than at any other point in history. How we use that information will determine whether we can create the future envisioned in the 2030 Agenda. UNDP is helping to connect the dots to turn raw information into coordinated action.

Eyes in the sky

A partnership between UNDP and NASA, the ‘One-Eye’ system supports project implementation across 120 sites and 10 countries in Africa. It uses satellite imagery, drones and real-time data to monitor, evaluate and deliver results in some of the world's most remote places.


Data for diversity

UNDP launched the UN Biodiversity Lab with UN Environment. Powered by MapX, the spatial data platform helps countries support conservation efforts and accelerate delivery on the SDGs.


Smart medicine

In India, health workers are using a mobile application called eVIN to keep track of vaccine stocks across the country. The smart, easy-to-use app is key to achieving the country’s goal to immunize 156 million women and children every year.


Confronting the risks

Robots aren’t going to replace doctors anytime soon. But the digital revolution carries a real risk when it comes to jobs. Automation and artificial intelligence threaten to replace workers in routine-based occupations. Many service jobs like driving a taxi or working in a fast food restaurant could simply disappear. By some estimates, as many as two thirds of all jobs in developing countries could be at risk.

This technological tide is unlikely to be reversed. In response, we’re working with young people to develop the skills they need to navigate the information economy, to create their own opportunities and design their own solutions.


YouthConnekt works to inspire, train and provide young entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed. Starting in Rwanda, it’s now expanding to other parts of the continent.


Champions of change

Young innovators from across the Arab world are putting their creativity and digital know-how to the service of their communities.


Geek for Good

Co-hosted by UNDP and tech giant Baidu, the Geek for Good Open Design Challenge aims to galvanize citizen engagement and inspire people to find tech-based solutions for some of China’s toughest development challenges.


Leaving no one behind

For maximum impact, technology should be accessible to everyone. But high costs and limited reach can mean some people are left out of its benefits. In developing countries, this can be seen in the difference in the availability of electricity and internet access in urban and rural areas.

To prevent the digital divide from growing even wider, we’re working with government and private sector partners to put technology and information into the hands of the least advantaged.

Co-design for inclusion

Using 3D printers, survivors of violence in Honduras help design their own prosthetics, in a project that quite literally puts technology within the grasp of the most vulnerable.


Public knowledge

As a strong advocate for open data, UNDP supports the Ministry of Data initiative to use open data for the public good. From its start in the Western Balkans, the initiative has since expanded to the Black Sea region.


Testing IoT tech

To provide farmers with critical and timely information, the Rwanda Meteorology Agency and UNDP are testing the use of ‘Internet of Things’ technology to collect data and deliver early warning for climate and disaster risk management.


An inclusive digital future

In July 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the creation of the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation to connect people and to foster discussion and collaboration. His Strategy on New Technologies outlines how the UN will use frontier technologies to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

For UNDP, it is essential to work with Member States to foster innovation while ensuring inclusion. We’ve also joined with tech companies, academics and civil society in a Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to ensure that AI is developed in a safe, ethical and transparent manner. Our aim is to harness technology’s transformative power and ensure the best possible digital future for all.

”As a global community, we face questions about security, equity and human rights in a digital age. We need greater cooperation to tackle these challenges and mitigate risks.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres,