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What is Green ICT?
What is Green ICT?

The concept of Green ICT is sometimes hard for people to get a hold on. The words themselves "Information and Communications Technology" sound weightless and futuristic, perhaps leading us to the misconception the ICT itself is inherently efficient and green. Like everything we do however ICT has an environmental impact, a much more significant one than most people realise, and building awareness of this is the first step to reducing that impact.

"The global information and communications technology (ICT) industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure equivalent to aviation" - Gartner 2007

So firstly, what are we talking about when we say ICT equipment? The list includes items such as:

  • Desktop and Laptop PCS

  • Printers, scanners, copiers, projectors

  • Smart phones, PDAs, desktop phones

  • Wireless and connected routers, hubs, and other networking equipment

  • Mail servers, file servers, firewalls, databases etc.

  • Data Centres and the equipment in them

The environmental impacts come in much the same way the impacts come from any equipment - manufacture, use and disposal.  Green ICT has specific challenges in all the areas of:

  • How the materials in ICT equipment are mined/produced

  • The conditions in which they are manufactured and the energy in this process

  • The transport of them to consumers

  • The energy required in the usage of them

  • The disposal of them at the end of their life time

Green ICT is concerned with all these effects.  We want to minimise the negative effects by encouraging equipment that:

  • is sustainably produced

  • lasts longer

  • wastes less energy

  • is used in an efficient way

  • is disposed of responsibly.

Green ICT goes beyond purchasing and usage though into how ICT can be used to lessen other aspects of our environmental impact.

One obvious way is what we call dematerialisation, changing physical processes to virtual ones.  Everyone is familiar with how the internet has revolutionised the distribution of music, what they may not be aware of are the significant environmental savings from avoiding packaging, transport, material production and shop space that this entails. This process can be done in many other areas, such as business meetings, home working, conferences, training, distribution, business processes and a whole host of other innovative areas. It is win-win, more efficient businesses and less environmental impact.

Green ICT goes on to address how the use of smart technology could make many other processes more efficient. What if your house knew when you'd left home for the weekend and could turn off all power to non essential devices you've identified, what if this fed back to the electricity company so they could make smart decisions about routing power to consumers, allowing them to optimise production, what if the electricity companies then fed back into a national grid that could make smarter decisions nationally, requiring less power stations to be built and constantly producing power in the first place. All of these things and many more are possible with the smarter use of Information Technology and we are still at the dawn of understanding its possibilities.

Ultimately the concept of Green ICT touches all our lives and brings together two great themes concerning the future of our current world, technology and the environment.

It's important for people to understand what Green ICT is, for businesses to engage with it, and for our decision makers to be aware of it's consequences and potential in helping us get to a sustainable world.

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