How might digital innovations help Canada achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030? This is the question Future Earth, Sustainability in the Digital Age, and the Canadian Science Policy Centre sought to address in 2021 through a virtual, national dialogue series called: Canada’s Sustainable Future – Creating a Digital Action Plan.
We connected 50 leaders in sustainability science and digital innovations with 375 participants via four public town halls and three consultation sessions to discuss three critical themes for Canada: 1) Digital Transformation to Scale Public Awareness for Sustainability, 2) Enabling cross-sectoral partnerships to drive sustainable innovation and 3) Indigenous Science and Knowledge Driving Transformative Solutions.
This project looks broadly at the context within Canada by examining factors that support and challenge practical implementation of the SDGs. It focuses on the role digital technologies and partnerships play and explores how ethical collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems can contribute to a more coordinated, national SDG approach.
Cite as: Future Earth Canada. Sustainability in the Digital Age. Canadian Science Policy Centre. Canada’s Sustainable Future – Creating a Digital Action Plan. 2022. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7293172
The key insights for the National Dialogue Series are grouped under three main areas of work. For detailed information on each of the following recommendations, please read the online report.
A Digital Action Plan – Moving Forward Together
- Accelerate investments in digital infrastructure across Canada to ensure access to affordable high-speed Internet for all, especially remote, rural and Indigenous communities. Access in these communities to relevant digital infrastructure like geographic data systems, data collection drones, satellite imagery, etc. is also vital for resource management, environmental monitoring and sustainability efforts.
- Recognize Indigenous Knowledge Systems and decolonize data through the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance.
- Develop Indigenous data sovereignty regulations consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), informed by nuances of the digital age, and following the UNESCO recommendations on Open Science and the Decolonization of Knowledge.
- Promote Open Science principles (for example FAIR, 2016), while taking into consideration CARE principles, by making all publicly funded research outcomes open access, to power innovation, scientific cooperation, and international collaboration for sustainability.
- Governments, industry, and research institutions should collaborate and coordinate to establish standards for collection, ownership, and sharing of environmental data across jurisdictions, to maximize transparency, access, and utilization in the interest of tackling sustainability challenges.
- Institute policies to minimize adverse environmental impacts of large-scale digitalization.
- Work with international partners, Canadian companies, local communities and citizen scientists to create environmental monitoring frameworks and digital platforms that enable real-time monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations.
Public Engagement and Education – Building Awareness
- Enhance the offering of issue-based education curricula that bridge disciplinary boundaries to address sustainability challenges.
- Update institutional mandates to incorporate sustainability and digital literacy content into formal education curricula and enhance relevant teacher training to support students in taking climate actions.
- Incorporate diverse perspectives into the education system, including enhancing coverage of Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
- Utilize digital tools and incorporate art more effectively to inspire, inform, and engage youth in sustainability discussions.
- Build mechanisms to enhance sustainability awareness and digital literacy among the public by leveraging the education system’s reach and capabilities.
Policy and Decision-Making – Strengthening Partnerships
- Use the Sustainable Development Goals as a unifying framework to inform sustainability policies, such as incorporating SDG elements into Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan.
- Support boundary-spanning organizations and industry clusters to stimulate cross-sectoral partnerships for sustainability innovation through funding, and foster collaborative, global, and sustainability-minded leadership qualities across society and key institutions to address complex challenges in a holistic manner.
- Build relationship-based, localized research methodologies across institutions.
- Adopt the Indigenous framework of Etuaptmumk / Two-Eyed Seeing as a way to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members to collaborate on sustainability and environmental challenges.
- Collaborative not top-down leadership.
- Utilize government procurement mechanisms to stimulate sustainable technology development and deployment in Canada through increasing investments to early-stage grassroots organizations and by being an early adopter of promising sustainable innovations.
- Reflect sustainability aspirations into building and other infrastructure codes and regulations.
Watch the lively public town hall discussions on the three critical themes for Canada:
Expert Advisory Committee
Founder and President, Let’s Talk Science
President, Canadian Science Policy Centre
Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography & Environment, Western University
We thank all the following experts for their time and knowledge contributions (alphabetical order, only contributors who consented to disclose their names are listed).
Annett Rozek, Bob Watts, Bonnie Schmidt, Cody Diabo, David Brooke Struck, Daqualama Jocelyn Joe-Strack, Debborah Donnelly, Eric Choi, Felipe Pérez Jvostov, Fred Popowich, Grace Quan, Jeffrey Wilson, Joel Semeniuk, John Colton, Jon Beal, Julie Angus, Karen Bakker, Ken Paul, Keroles Riad, Laura Schnurr, Lauren Manekin Beille, Liliana Diaz, Lise Ann Johnson, Margot Hurlbert, Mohamed Cheriet, Nizar Ladak, Roda Muse, Ryan Oliver, Teiotsistohkwathe Jessica Lazar, Tyler Colbourne, Qi Wang, Wanósts’a7 Lorna Williams.