interview  | 

A fresh approach to sustainable development. Victoria Alonsoperez, UN Young Leader for the SDGs

"A successful society would be one in which sustainability is at the forefront of decision making."

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Victoria Alonsopérez is an electronics, telecommunications, and electrical engineer, as well as an entrepreneur and inventor. She is the founder of Chipsafer, a patented platform that can track cattle remotely and autonomously. In 2015 The Venture and the BBC selected her as one of the top 30 female entrepreneurs under 30. In 2017, she was invited to present Chipsafer at the Solutions Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York during the UN General Assembly, and in 2018 the UN selected her as United Nations Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals.

Firstly, what drove you to get involved in technology?

Since I was four years old, I have been passionate about space. My dad is an accountant and, when I was four years old, I asked him why he was writing so many numbers on a piece of paper. He took me to the window and showed me the full moon, and he told me that humans had been there thanks to the appropriate combination of numbers. I was extremely impressed by that. And since then, I became super passionate about space.

What advice would you offer young women who hope to become innovators?

My biggest advice is to always look for a problem in your region and try to find a solution to it.

Don’t try to look for the solution before you find the problem.

 

We are facing an agricultural revolution. How is technology helping us navigate this?

Technology is essential to making agriculture more efficient and to being able to produce more while using the same amount of natural resources. 

What is Sustainable Development? Can you define it in your own words?

Sustainable development is being able to grow without harming the environment, taking care of people and making sure everyone is included.

You have to be socially and environmentally conscious nowadays.

 

What is your role as a United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals? What are your key goals and challenges?

As a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, I work to engage young people and further initiatives that support the UN 2030 agenda. If we want to achieve the sustainable development goals, we not only need to put pressure on companies and governments.

I think that as a consumer, you have an incredible amount of power just by being able to decide what products you want to buy.

You need to be conscious of the environmental impacts of the products you purchase, as well as the social implications.

In what key ways can Sustainable Development help create a more equitable future?

Regulations are needed, but you can’t just put a law in place that says from one day to another: ‘You need to stop doing what you’re doing and become sustainable tomorrow’. Because if you do that, you’re going to be making many people poor immediately. What the regulations need to do is to say: ‘Hey, you need to become more sustainable, but for the next five years I’m going to give you the tools to do that’. 

Which technology field do you think currently requires or deserves the biggest investment, and why?

Any technology that can have an impact on climate change is crucial.

There’s no specific technology. I believe we need a combination of technologies. For example, anything that can provide education, that is something that is sometimes overlooked.

If you want people to become more sustainable, you need to teach them to become more sustainable.

 

What are the opportunities provided by big data when it comes to Sustainable Development? What are the risks?

Open data is vital for transparency.

Data can help in the sense of tackling corruption because as long as everything is transparent and everything is available to everyone, then we will be able to hold people to account. 

How is the IoT (Internet of Things) and emerging technologies changing the status quo when it comes to governments achieving their Sustainable Development goals?

I think the IoT as well as all the other technologies combined are fundamental to providing data for governments to make informed and better decisions.

In a few years, every political decision will be made with data.

Which technology will be the most important in the near future? Why is technology so important for our future?

I think right now we are in a planetary emergency. In the universe, finding a place like Earth is extremely rare. We have found very few cases, and those are millions of light-years away. So I think that we all need to wake up and take care of our planet because creating the conditions to live on another planet is extremely hard.

What is the relation (if any) between Space Engineering and Sustainable Development?

Space technology is extremely important for the sustainable development goals. Satellites monitoring Earth can help us with images to know if we need more irrigation or if we need more fertilizer or if we need some sort of agro-chemical to become more efficient. GPS is vital. There are so many innovations that came out of space exploration

What do you think is the future of STEM education (Science Tech Engineering and Maths)? How can we encourage more women into studying STEM?

We need more role models in STEM to encourage more women to take STEM subjects and to help women and girls access STEM education.

It’s unbelievable, but it’s 2019, and there are a lot of places in the world in which women do not have the education they deserve because of several factors.

What would a successful society look like to you? What would be the first steps towards achieving it?

For me, a successful society would be one in which sustainability is at the forefront of decision making.

Anything you would like to add?

Do not just sit and complain. Complaining is not going to help anyone. Create, innovate, try to become a more sustainable person, a more sustainable consumer.

Every single person on Earth can have an impact. No matter how small.