Private and public sector leaders rank 2017's top global risks and opportunities

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Compassionate Cities.

Oslo-based advisory firm DNV GL published its 2017 Global Opportunity Report in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact and the Nordic think tank Sustainia. It's a complex undertaking based on a simple concept: In every risk there is opportunity. The report highlights the five greatest risks facing cities around the globe this year, based on a survey of 5,500 leaders from business, government and civil society across five continents. The report also identifies and ranks sustainability opportunities mapped to those risks and showcases 120 practical projects and solutions that already under way around the globe. You'll see a strong relationship between compassion and technology in this report, which we've summarized below. But it is a rich and information-packed document; we encourage you to download it in its entirety. – Liz Enbysk


Rising inequality 2017's No. 1 risk
Even as poverty rates decline, gaps between rich and poor continue to grow. Inequality is our world's most pressing risk today, according to 46% of survey respondents.

As the report states: "Inequality within countries is rising, resulting in devastating economic and social impacts. Combating inequalities related to gender, race, ethnicity and social class will be of the utmost importance in the coming years."

So how can global change-makers turn that No. 1 ranked risk into a sustainable business opportunity and a win for everyone? Here are three identified in the report:

  • Blockchain technology. People living without adequate records are often trapped in poverty and exclusion. The report suggests as many as two billion people worldwide are without a bank account. Quickly developing blockchain technology allows them to take control of their digital identities, with sophisticated record-keeping databases that helps them verify their identity and get access to banking services, insurance and other financial products.
  • Innovative labor-saving technologies. In developing countries alone, women spend 100 million hours a day just carrying water, according to the report. Women around the world spend one to three hours more per day on housework than men, and two to 10 times more caring for children, the elderly and the sick. Innovative products and services combined with progressive advertising can challenge gender norms that perpetuate the uneven burden of domestic work on women – freeing them for education, greater participation in the workforce, etc.
  • Connected digital platforms. An estimated 400 million people around the world lack adequate access to healthcare. "For people living at the Base of the Pyramid," the report suggests, "the threshold for health problems that can hold you back is lower than for everyone else." Mobile technologies and connected digital platforms are opening up new opportunities for collecting and sharing personal data, which can greatly improve access to healthcare, particularly for low income, remote communities.

4 more global risks
The other top risks for 2017 identified by the survey:

  • Unstable regions – more people than ever have been displaced by conflicts around the world
  • Soil depletion – over-exploitation of soil puts agriculture production essential for survival at risk
  • Cities disrupted by climate change – increasing urbanization and climate change put new stresses on infrastructure
  • Cyber threats – the Internet of Things and other digitization bring benefits, but also the increasing threat of cyber crime

For background, the 2016 Global Opportunity Report identified youth unemployment as the No. 1 risk facing the globe, followed by the global food crisis, accelerating transport emissions, loss of ocean biodiversity and resistance to life-saving medicine.

Top opportunities for 2017
To stay relevant and capitalize on market opportunities, businesses must invest in cutting-edge digitization, the report suggests. Two of the four top opportunities identified by public and private sector survey respondents embrace blockchain technology and artificial intelligence, “illustrating that all industries, including water, education, IT, and energy, will not just be disrupted by technological innovations -- they’ll be entirely overtaken and reshaped."

For the third year, technology related to water surfaced as the No. 1 opportunity identified by respondents. Smart water technologies enable consumers to use water more sustainably; a critical issue in many regions today.

Runner-up to smart water was the need to deliver education to conflict areas – the unstable regions mentioned above. "Applying innovation from the ground up," the report says, "and engaging in dialogue with digitally engaged local consumers to drive peace and profit define this opportunity." It suggests the global smart education and learning market will be worth 586.04 billion USD by 2021.

Download the 2017 Global Opportunity Report for more on risks, opportunities and relevant technologies.

 
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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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