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From AI to 5G connectivity to big data; Can technology help tackle climate emergency?

CP Gurnani     January 27, 2020

The raging Australian and Amazon wildfires have raised a burning question for all of us - why the very technology, that has been a major facilitator to human evolution and growth could not predict, manage or control its destruction? To those of us who are in the business of technology, it is time to ask a few tough questions in our boardroom meetings and take ownership of solving the problem. After all, what is growth worth if the planet itself is in peril?

As someone who has witnessed the digital revolution unfold, I may not have a full-proof plan to address the climate emergency, in fact, we don't even have the visibility of all evolving technologies that may be required to solve the climate emergency. But, I am clear and convinced that we have to start now and start with the available technologies which in their own right are very powerful and transformational.

For instance, high-speed connectivity of 5G and network of the future has the power to seamlessly relay data, videos, and pictures, across devices. The power of big data when harnessed through quantum computing and made intelligent and actionable through AI, can not only monitor, locate and analyse the problem, but help find solutions in tandem.

Imagine farmers using the power of drone fitted cameras to monitor crops across large farms or medicines being supplied to remote locations like hilly terrains or flood-inundated areas.

India is endowed with large reservoirs of fresh water, yet, it has not been possible to make potable water available across every household. But this is possible, with the adoption of desalination technology that can reduce the pressure on our freshwater demand. It is encouraging to note that the government is invested in this space - for the first time in India 'Ministry of Jal Shakti' has been formed, which literally translates to 'water power' in English and reflects how serious water challenges are for the country.

It is also a great example of how countries can cooperate and collaborate to solve bigger problems. In this very instance, India is leveraging Israel's technology to solve its water crisis.

I am glad India has taken a leadership position on key renewable energy like solar. The iconic Gandhi Solar Park at United Nations headquarters in New York epitomises our commitment to the same.

This will not only help India draw onto renewable energy in a big way, but it will also help in rebalancing the world energy dynamics in favour of sustainability. While at the same time it underlines that we need to do more, not just as India, but as global citizens.

The testimonies to renewable energy sources are aplenty. For instance, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and bioenergy have helped many developing countries in Asia and Africa.

A large population has been able to achieve economic sustainability through infrastructure development and by offering affordable renewable energy to the rural population. It has also helped achieve social sustainability.

Electricity generated from solar power technology has also helped children to read at night and provided well-lit classrooms.

Importantly, it has paved the way for adult education. Another shining example is of electric vehicles which can reduce pollution and offer a cleaner alternative to conventional vehicles.

Strategy to a sustainable, ecosystem demands an innovative and fresh thinking approach. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the internet of things, when combined, can be a formidable force in addressing the current climate emergency.

We all as individuals at a company, community and global level have a role to play.

For instance, in my organisation, besides the sustainable development goals, we are also successfully leveraging the potential of robotics to carry out seeding initiatives using drones even on inaccessible terrains.

We are also executing sustainability initiatives like the ban of single-use plastics in our campuses and green plantation drives across the country. Simply put, each one of us needs to walk the talk.

(The author is Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra)

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