ICT is Green Technology

by

Lynda Leonard
Senior Vice-President, ITAC

The ICT industry faces significant challenges relative to our environmental impact and our contributions to a more sustainable life here on earth.

First is the challenge of getting our own house in order. We have benefited from the acquisition of a relatively benign environmental reputation. We’re not seen as a “smokestack” industry and that has bought us some grace. Let’s hope our halo holds up until we can fully address the reality of our situation… which is that we are a serious emissions contributor (some servers can pump out carbon like an SUV). Fortunately we prize our green reputation and hold our reputation for non-complacency even higher. So there has already been a major effort across the whole industry to shrink this footprint as quickly as we can. Sustainability and energy efficiency feature prominently in the R&D programs and market engagements of virtually all major and many smaller ICT firms.

A second challenge lies in the proliferation and increasing superannuation and disposability of the tools and devices we use to connect our wired world. The alchemy of computing has involved some pretty nasty ingredients (like lead and cadmium). We can’t be dumping that into landfills here or anywhere else. So once again we return to the lab to discover new ways to weave our magic with friendlier (and fewer) materials.

A third challenge lies in firmly establishing our place in the ranks of environmental technologies. With controversy swirling (yes, that was a pun) around the negative impacts of wind farming or around the actual yield from solar technology, it seems to me that ICT is the only environmental technology with a proven track record… producing greater efficiencies in power generation and distribution, conserving energy through sensor networks in smart buildings and by displacing the need for carbon-spewing commuting and business travel. As the OECD’s Environmental Technologies Action Plan has observed… “the (ICT) industry can provide the tools to contribute to energy savings both within its own sector and in other areas. Even at a very basic level the energy management, monitoring and awareness-raising potential of ICTs mean they can offer huge savings across almost every industry.”

The environmental issues confronting our industry are weighty and complex enough to fill days of discourse. So we thought we’d hold at least one. On April 27 we will hold the first ITAC Executive Forum on Green ICT. Hope to see you there!

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