In response to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report released earlier this January, the Nordic think tank Sustainia has released its Global Opportunities Report.
The paper takes a sunnier approach to solving many of the problems detailed in the WEF report, such as poor sanitation and underemployment.
Three main innovations stand out for their ability to improve people’s health, opportunities, and security.
Here are the technologies that could prove vital in the coming decades.
Smart water technology
- Reuters/Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi
Among 5,500 global business leaders polled for the report, Sustainia’s research has found smart water technology ranked as the top priority three years in a row for ensuring people around the world can live safe, healthy lives. The technology could live in sensor-laden pipes and include cloud storage for the data pipes receive.
Smart water tech would allow cities to more easily and accurately check toxicity levels, regulate water flow, and plug the occasional leak. Sustainia predicts the smart water tech industry will grow to $20 billion by 2020, up from $8.4 billion in 2016.
- Reuters / Benoit Tessier
Roughly half the world has access to the internet, but many still lack a high-quality education. Sustainia has found education ranks near the top of leaders’ proposed means to combat inequality worldwide.
Sites like Coursera and Khan Academy, and other massive online open courseware (MOOCs), enable people who can’t afford traditional school to learn new skills.
“The ubiquity of the internet offers huge opportunities for businesses to reach potential students outside the classic classroom,” the report states, “and instead bring education directly to those who need it through computers, tablets, and phones.”
Blockchain and cybersecurity
- Reuters/Mal Langsdon
Cybersecurity – and the organization system blockchain, in particular – is an increasingly vital way to keep business transactions logged and tracked, Sustainia finds. The technology also allows for a reduction in cybercrime and, as residents in sub-Saharan Africa attested, the exchange of energy and finance.
Blockchain technology appeared in several categories in Sustainia’s top 15 opportunities, mostly because the internet now pervades many aspects of modern life. Without proper security, those systems could come undone.
“Intelligent cyber security offers a promising opportunity,” the report states, “as it employs adaptive algorithms that can detect and respond to threats in real time, stopping breaches before serious damage can be done.”