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The SEWOH Lab – From Data to Action

The SEWOH lab consists of six projects, all of them aiming to combine digital tools and social innovations that generate progress towards sustainable transformations of our societies and food systems.

by David Betge | 2024-02-26

The SEWOH Lab – From Data to Action

Six years remain to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the world is in dire need of pulling together and making progress. The UN have called for a redoubling of efforts given that 30 percent of all SDG targets show no progress while half of them are off track. It has become clear that groundbreaking innovations will be needed in the quest to reach the SDGs. Likewise, combating climate change, or at this point even mitigating the worst outcomes of climate change, requires new ways of working and collaborating. 

Digital technologies offer potential solutions for faster, more targeted, and more easily scalable measures contributing to reaching the SDGs and implementing the Paris Agreement. However, digitalization comes with severe risks and the potential to leave those who are cut off by a digital divide behind. The speed and urgency with which progress is now sought risks hurting the rights and interests of those who are already in situations of vulnerability. In a recent policy brief, the UN Secretary General writes: “We need to act now, and with speed, if we are to recover the potential of digital technologies for the equitable and sustainable development that is slipping away from us and the planetary crisis that confronts us.”

The SEWOH Lab, implemented by TMG and partners in Kenya, South Africa and India and funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development aims to provide examples of digital solutions that enable progress towards reaching the SDGs, combating climate change, and protecting the rights and interests of people in vulnerable situations. 

The SEWOH lab consists of six projects, all of them aiming to combine digital tools and social innovations that generate progress towards sustainable transformations of our societies and food systems. The tools developed by TMG, and its partners are applied to secure women’s land rights in Kenya, to improve land governance in Malawi and Sierra Leone, improve tenure protection under the Indian Forest Rights Act and to support the monitoring of groundwater in India as well as improve food security in urban areas in Kenya and South Africa.

In 2023, the SEWOH Lab work progressed significantly, bringing five of the projects into the piloting phase in which the innovations are applied and tested. Additionally, our work on early warning systems in the context of transboundary pests and climate change resulted in a new project on scoping a new governance for the integration of innovative technologies in early warning-early action systems for transboundary climate-sensitive pests and diseases in collaboration with the IGAD Climate Predictions and Applications Centre (ICPAC) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

A major milestone of the work was an exchange and advocacy event on inclusive digitalization in Rome at the occasion of the 46th Committee on World Food Security. Our partners from Kenya, India and South Africa gathered around the table to explore how civil society organizations and their knowledge partners like TMG can leverage the potential of digitalization on the groundwhile also bringing their knowledge and experience into international fora. 

Drawing on collective experiences, TMG and partners arrived at an emerging consensus on the preconditions required to ensure that data and digitalization are a source for sustainable and inclusive development. Providing guidance for the implementation of the new CFS policy recommendations in practical next steps, the group presented six key principles to Ambassador Gabriel Ferrero y de Loma Osorio, Chairperson of the CFS. 

2024 will be a year full of milestones for the SEWOH Lab, bringing the insights and experiences from the projects to communities of practice, international fora and laying the foundations for scaling up and expanding our innovations to enable contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

One of the early highlights will be the launch of the Haki Ardhi Rights Reporting tool together with our partners and the Huairou Commission in the context of the sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March. A dot on the horizon is the Summit of the Future at which the UN General Secretary aims to have a new Global Digital Compact adopted. This is the perfect environment in which to share our insights on sustainable digitalization, social innovations and getting from data to action, launching the final report of the SEWOH Lab.

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