Experts argue for Sustainable Digitalisation Goals

Experts argue for Sustainable Digitalisation Goals

Press release of 10 January 2019

The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and the German Academic Exchange Service / Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) have released joint expert conclusions on “Digital Transformation: Higher Education and research for Sustainable Development”. They imply the need to deal better with the transformative force of digitalisation for higher education and international cooperation.

The bulletin is the result of an experts´ workshop that brought together researchers from around the globe to explore key aspects of digital transformation in the areas of knowledge for sustainable development, research and higher education. It was held in Bonn on 8-9 November. The final text was jointly agreed upon through an online consultation process. The collaboration between researchers and practitioners from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America resulted in the declaration that describes current and future frontiers in higher education and research:

  • Digitalisation has a great potential to improve the quality and availability of knowledge. Yet, access and processing of data and academic work does not happen automatically and for free, but requires actions. It needs to be shaped by governments, universities and research institutions.
  • It offers many new opportunities for cooperation, but requires high investments in knowledge and technology. Digitalisation facilitates and accelerates international cooperation, yet it cannot completely replace direct human contact.
  • Digitalisation makes learning content available globally and 24/7. While this in itself is progress for some, the development entails the task of thinking about lifelong learning as well as online didactics. Academia´s role is to promote critical, self-determined action. The main opportunities and challenges are thus about increasing the reach of education while ensuring quality.

The road to sustainable education and research

The Digitalisation Goals also outline a way towards achieving sustainability through communication and timely incorporation of new developments into curricula:

  • International research networks and cooperation should invest in the communication of research results, their implications and limitations.
  • It is important to make publications and learning material open access to ensure social and global equity as well as to seize the opportunity of cooperation, strengthen diversity of perspectives to ensure impact, invest in collaboration globally and support pioneers in digitalisation. We need to harness the opportunities of digitalisation to create new learning spaces to improve the accessibility and quality of educational provision.
  • Higher education institutions should reflect on and react to developments in society in their study programmes as well as actively assist learners to acquire new skills and competences.


Sven Grimm, co-author of the Sustainable Digitalisation Goals and head of the Training Programmes at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) concludes: “We need to focus on the cultivation of a human spirit in digitalisation. The only way to build trust in digital education products is to ensure their quality.”


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Experts discuss opportunities of digitalisation for sustainable development and higher education during their meeting in Bonn in November. Photo: Barbara Frommann

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Sven Grimm from the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) moderates the discussion. Photo: Barbara Frommann

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Participants contributed to the discussion during the workshop and via an online consultation process after the meeting. Photo: Barbara Frommann