Environmental ICT – what next for education and training?

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The first age of ICT sustainability saw a number of major developments in the understanding of ICT’s impact on the environment, and of ways to mitigate that impact. Perhaps the single most significant – certainly the best remembered – piece of information is that ICT is responsible for the same proportion of greenhouse gas as the airline industry, leading to a focus on the energy (power) demands of ICT.  Whether motivated by environmental concerns, or by the recognition that energy = money, there followed a number of technological innovations: power saving hardware and software; air conditioning systems; virtualised servers etc. Many of these innovations identified the data centre as the main consumer of energy, and many of the developments put in place are now accepted parts of “best practice”, for example in the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres. At the same time, power saving modes and “switch off” campaigns were aimed at reducing the power used by desk systems, and printer developments attempted to reduce paper consumption.

The smart cities movement gave rise to the next stage of development, where ICT became a key part of the measurement and management of environmental impacts, a development which continues with the idea of “smart everything” and the interconnection of devices, meters and controllers using the Internet of Things.

However, the first half of the current decade was marked by indications that sustainability was becoming less important in the day to day considerations of ICT professionals. There may be a number of reasons for this:

  • Lack of knowledge about ICT energy use is often cited as a reason
  • There has been some use of terms such as “green fatigue”
  • The effects of the global recession on available funds
  • The view that the “low hanging fruit” (for example data centre efficiency and desktop power saving) has all been gathered, what remains is more difficult to reach and the cost of getting it is not justified.

Education and training – which would be expected to keep sustainability high on the agenda -has seen mixed results, with little development from the “good to include but not essential” status. The number of University courses in IT sustainability is still very far short of the number in subjects such as software development; networking or security.

Is it the case that the high point of IT environmental awareness has been reached? If so, is that a concern? What should we as educators do to push environmental IT back up the agenda? Are there new initiatives and techniques which can be used in the promotion?

 

Contribution

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Location: Building G Room 123 Date: Fri, Sep 16, 2016 Time: 10:30 am - 12:30 pm Pattinson Colin Colin Pattinson Counotte-Potman Anda Anda Counotte-Potman