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Towards a Greener Inter-Connected World

Because they have revolutionized our world in extraordinary ways, ICTs have a huge potential to effectively influence attitudes and behavior towards a greener environment and positively affect climate change. ICTs are vital and indispensible players in combating the threat of climate change. Their influence has been clearly identified by the technology community and government ICT ministries.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has pointed out that ICTs are the most valuable problem solving tools in the 21st century! ICT could influence climate change drastically as technology offers hands-on means of cutting down carbon emissions through intelligent transport systems, smart grids, the “internet of things”, digitization of goods, processes and services – all of which have an outstanding potential to reduce greenhouse gas emission. These technologies have already started by working on themselves. For instance, the ICT industry is using technology to reduce its own carbon footprint even though it is only responsible for 2% of CO2 emissions.

ITU, in collaboration with industry partners and NGOs the like of UNFCCC Secretariat, the UN Global Compact and TechAmerica, delivered their message to the delegates at the UN COP 17 climate change conference in Durban in an attempt to initiate the green project and open the gates to green technology markets . These organizations promoted ICTs as valuable means towards a greener and more sustainable world.

Their agenda entailed a diversity of suggestions, strategies and solutions that could help in taking further steps towards a greener environment and a greener economy. They tried to reveal how the application of ICT solutions could enable a transformation towards a more resourceful and services-based society. They emphasized how the ICT sector is capable of mitigating climate change through the decoupling of economic growth from energy consumption.

How will the ICT industry attain that?

The ICT industry could contribute to mitigating climate change in different ways which entail:

  • the enabling of more infrastructure innovation such as increasing energy efficiency of buildings and infrastructure through intelligent systems and design
  • reducing the energy use of the manufacturing sector through intelligent systems, design and change of business models
  • enabling smarter management of energy supply and demand
  • ensuring sustainable energy production
  • affecting behavioral change and green enablement by tracking GHG emissions through the supply chain
  • enabling virtual meetings such as remote collaboration and telecommuting: home to office, inter-office travels as a substitute for some travel activities
  • increasing the energy efficiency of the products and services offered by ICT companies, and progress in educating society on the economic and environmental value that ICT solutions such as data centers provide

Despite all possibilities and opportunities, the challenges remain great! The opportunity for ICT products and services in enabling a climate change is remarkably established. However, the potential of ICTs to make a real difference has not been embraced yet by environmental lobby groups and policymakers. Such a lack of recognition has not only hindered the project, but has also placed it at a very far distance from realizing its potential.

Sectors outside the ICT must be alerted to the importance of the project in order for the ICTs to establish themselves as leading contributors that see reduction of CO2 as a driver for innovation and profit while at the same time granting the ICT sector a leadership role as a winner in a low-carbon economy.