Cybersecurity named most daunting challenge facing the world over next 25 years, say engineers

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Release Date: 

March 4th, 2020

One in five engineers worldwide say securing cyberspace is the most daunting challenge facing the world in the next 25 years, according to a new survey.

The Global Engineer Survey, commissioned by premiere engineering outreach organization DiscoverE, found cybersecurity, sustaining land and oceans, providing clean energy and improving access to clean water and sanitation were the four most significant global tasks.

The findings, released on the first UNESCO World Engineering Day, found optimism among young people, but one in three respondents warned that a lack of government support would hold back efforts to tackle major challenges.

“Engineers are the world’s problem solvers, yet engineering is often overlooked or under-appreciated as providing the solution to major challenges such as climate change, digitalization and food security,” said Prof. Gong Ke, president of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), which campaigned for World Engineering Day.

“Today is an opportunity to celebrate engineering and its vital role in delivering sustainable development worldwide, and champion the next generation of innovators.”

On average, engineers rated their optimism for tackling global problems at 62 on a scale of 1 to 100, naming transportation, AI and space travel as the top three innovations that will turn science fiction into reality.

Chinese engineers were the most optimistic, while women were more likely than men to see cybersecurity as the biggest challenge. Almost one in four Kenyan engineers identified providing access to clean water and sanitation as the most daunting challenge.

However, more than half of respondents from almost 120 different countries saw a shortage of engineers both now and in the future to help address these issues.

“These highly illuminating findings are reason for both optimism and caution,” said Kathy Renzetti, Executive Director, DiscoverE, which commissioned the survey of more than 10,000 engineers.

“Young engineers possess an irrepressible can-do spirit and a readiness to take on the world’s toughest challenges. But as the overwhelming majority of survey participants make clear, the next generation can’t do it alone.”

“Solving the world’s problems is an enormous collaborative undertaking involving both the public and private sectors and extending across disciplines, borders and demographics.”

Engineering organizations, institutes and companies gathered to mark the inaugural celebration of an international day dedicated to engineering.

While many countries have engineering days of their own, they are spread across the calendar. UNESCO’s proclamation last November that every year now will have World Engineering Day on March 4 was announced in recognition of the importance of celebrating engineers in a global effort to raise awareness of their contributions to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“The world is still lacking engineers, especially young women engineers, and the importance of engineering to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not stressed enough,” said Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO.

“The aim of this day is to increase the visibility of engineering and its role in sustainable development, to encourage students to study engineering or pursue engineering studies and to share success stories in engineering.”

Notes to editors

The Global Engineer Survey, which was commissioned by DiscoverE, included 10,077 respondents from 119 countries.

When asked the most daunting challenge facing engineers in the next 25 years, the responses were:

1. Securing cyberspace (19%)
2. Economical clean energy (18%)
3. Sustaining land and oceans (16%)
4. Sustainable and resilient infrastructure (11%)

When asked if there was currently a shortage of engineers, the responses were:

Strongly agree 12.9%
Agree 38.8%
Neutral 29.1%
Disagree 14.4%
Strongly disagree 4.8%

When asked if there would be a shortage of engineers in the future, the responses were:

Strongly agree 16%
Agree 38.3%
Neutral 24.4%
Disagree 16.8%
Strongly disagree 4.5%


UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in education, the sciences and culture. UNESCO's programmes contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015. UNESCO approved March 4 as World Engineering Day at its General Conference in November 2019.

The World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) was established in 1968 as the global body for professional engineering institutions with members from 100 nations representing 30 million engineers. It is the internationally recognised voice of the engineering profession, an associate of UNESCO, cooperating with national and other international
professional bodies developing and applying engineering to constructively resolve international and national issues for the benefit of humanity. WFEO encourages all of its national and international members to contribute to global efforts to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals through engineering.

DiscoverE leads a growing volunteer movement that inspires and informs present and future generations to discover engineering. Our network of volunteers in the US and abroad is drawn from DiscoverE’s coalition of more than 100 professional societies, major corporations, and government agencies. Together we meet a vital need: introducing students, parents, and educators to engineering and engineers, engaging them in hands-on engineering experiences, and making science and math relevant. For more information, visit


Alan Winnikoff
Sayles & Winnikoff Communications
(212) 725-5200 ext. 111

Aimee Miller
Sayles & Winnikoff Communications
(212) 725-5200 ext. 122