Challenges facing society – University of Copenhagen

Challenges facing society

Nowadays, almost all communications, analysis and number crunching use IT tools, which have revolutionised the way the world works. However, digital technology alone cannot solve the major global challenges faced by areas such as health care and the climate. In order to devise the best possible solutions researchers have to break down traditional boundaries between subject areas, draw on expertise from other disciplines and use IT to link them up. In the field of health technology, computer scientists and physicians at the University of Copenhagen are working closely with industry to develop advanced tools for the diagnosis of conditions such as breast cancer.

Lifestyle, IT and health promotion

In the health sector, IT tools are an indispensable part of the solution to the major problems caused by modern lifestyles. Paradoxically, however, many of the digital toys with which we surround ourselves in everyday life are also part of the problem. This is because the digital world presents very few opportunities for movement and activity, and the lifestyle conditions contracted due to inactivity will be one of the biggest challenges facing society in the years to come.

As well as inventing better diagnostic tools and forms of treatment, technology can also be used to promote good health. Heart-rate monitors, GPS watches and exercise apps are now available to ordinary people who want a more active lifestyle – however, technology in itself will not reverse the trend. These new technologies have to be linked to expertise in human behaviour in order to generate knowledge about integrating these tools into everyday life. Research and development in telemedicine, which enables patients to monitor and adjust treatment of asthma and other conditions from their own homes, is another example of the close links between the health sciences, social sciences, humanities and computer-science communities at the University of Copenhagen, which incorporate thinking about technology, behaviour and health into holistic solutions that revolve around the individual.

People, IT and the climate

An interdisciplinary approach is necessary and desirable in almost every situation where digital technology plays a role in addressing the major challenges facing the world. For example, the University of Copenhagen and a number of local authorities are working together to develop IT solutions that will encourage people to get involved in efforts to mitigate climate change and make the most climate-friendly choices possible in their everyday lives. This requires not just technological insight, but also insight into user behaviour and citizen involvement.

Communication technology

Communication technology plays a key role in projects like these, and good and effective communication in the form of well designed websites, search engines, translation software, voice recognition software, etc. is indispensable. At the University of Copenhagen, researchers in areas such as linguistics, computer science and media studies are working hard with private companies and other external partners to come up with the best possible solutions.