Having entered the decade of the 2020s, society is facing unprecedented ecological challenges. In the coming years, the course must be set for effective climate protection, for the reduction of resource consumption or even the preservation of biodiversity. The timetable is ambitious and the pressure is high: In order to reach the policy goal of becoming climate neutral by 2045 in Germany, greenhouse gas emissions must fall much faster than they have ever so far. As a consequence, climate change abatement actions must take on a new quality: It will not be enough, for example, to gradually improve industrial processes or vehicles. Industrial value chains or mobility systems must be fundamentally transformed and made sustainable. A profound ecological system change is imminent in all areas of the economy and society.
This is where the project "Shaping Digitalisation – Enabling Transformation towards Sustainability" – or ShapingDIT for short – commissioned by Huawei Technologies Deutschland GmbH comes in. Within the project, the scientists are working on identifying the specific transformation potential of digitalisation and are discussing the following three selected fields of action for Germany:
In their first study, "Shaping Digitalisation – Enabling Transformation towards Sustainability", the researchers outline the potential of digitalisation as a prerequisite for success for ecological system change in these three areas. Their conclusion: In the first place digital solutions help to improve current processes and structures (Improve) or to take the first steps towards a new orientation of business models (Convert). "However, digitalisation must also be leveraged for a comprehensive restructuring of economic systems and value chains as well as for the ecological reorientation of society and lifestyles - the task is to Transform," emphasises Dr.-Ing. Stephan Ramesohl, Co-Head of the Research Unit Digital Transformation at the Wuppertal Institute. The scientist adds that it is precisely this level of impact that will be decisive for sustainability and that must become a stronger focus of the debate.
For those involved in the project, an intelligent, cooperative and collaborative approach to data (data intelligence) is a basic prerequisite for exploiting this potential. At the same time, the digital transformation itself – i.e. its technologies, infrastructures and business models – must be designed in an ecologically compatible way, such as climate-neutral data centres or digital end-use devices that have a reduced consumption of resources and are designed for circularity.
In the following second project phase, the researchers of the Wuppertal Institute will discuss the transformation potentials of digitalisation in depth together with stakeholders and experts from all three fields of action. In doing so, they will identify, for example, previously unconsidered starting points for ecologically relevant connectivity and use of data. On this basis, they will draw up proposals for the necessary design of political framework conditions and incentive systems.