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2.1.1 ICT's two-fold role

Nowadays, there are few things in our lives that are not created, controlled, or popularized by information and communication technology (ICT). It shapes our future, and yet threatens it. According to ITU (International Telecommunication Union), ICT is estimated to contribute around 2-2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These percentages are likely to grow as ICT become more widely available. While being part of the problem, ICT is also a major linchpin in efforts to fight climate change and serve as a potent, cross-cutting tool to limit and ultimately reduce GHG emissions and save energy across economic and social sectors, in particular by the introduction and development of more energy efficient devices, applications and networks, as well as their environmentally sound disposal. Hence, ICT is part of the problem as well as part of the solution to climate change.

As part of the problem:
  -  Internet - 5.3% of world's energy consumption
  -  Contributes around 2-2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
As part of the solution:

  -  Monitoring climate change

  -  Data analysis & climate modeling

  -  Emergency services & disaster relief

  -  Travel substitution

    • Smart Work Centres
    • TelePresence
    • Webex

  -  Transport management systems

  -  Sensor networks and process control (e.g. switching off unnecessary devices and production on-demand.) 


2.1.2 Role of ICT in reducing GHG emissions

In 2007, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) made a statement at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia, demonstrating the role played by ICT as both a cause and a potential solution for climate change.

 1) ICT's influence by enabling energy efficiencies in other sectors

In a pre-emptive strike, the GeSI has joined the Climate Group, to examine how ICT affect climate change. Their report The SMART 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age,  indicated that ICT is potentially at the forefront of reducing GHG emissions. The report also pointed out that, while the sector plans to significantly step up the energy efficiency of its products and services, ICT's largest influence will be by enabling energy efficiencies in other sectors, an opportunity that could deliver carbon savings five times larger than the total emissions from the entire ICT sector in 2020.
 According to the report, the ICT sector has a powerful role to play in tackling climate change by enabling other sectors, such as transport, buildings, power and industry, to become more efficient. To realize this opportunity will require a radical transformation of current infrastructure. This report found that ICT could reduce global carbon emissions by 7.8 GtCO2e by 2020 (from an assumed total of 51.9 GtCO2e if we remain on a BAU trajectory), an amount five times larger than its own GHG emissions footprint. Savings from avoided electricity and fuel consumption would reach ¤600 billion ($946.5 billion). The report also looked at five major opportunities for reducing emissions - dematerialization, smart motor systems, smart logistics, smart buildings and smart grids. These opportunities were chosen based on the potential for ICT to drive emissions reductions in key regions around the world where the best data were available.

2) Software solutions to climate change  

Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist to software giant Microsoft, says, "Software can deliver an alternative to fossil fuels." Market leaders like HP, IBM and Microsoft are ahead of the game in offering carbon-crunching ICT solutions - such as supply chain modelers that enable companies to visually manage and model energy data; server consolidation and virtualization; and grid management technologies.

  •   Microsoft's eco-software
  •   HP's 'generic solutions
  •   IBM: 'Measure and reduce'

Green ICT solutions:Smart Grid/Smart Utilities;
Virtual Server Software;
Intelligent Traffic and Transport Systems;
Smart Buildings;
Green supply chain management;
Video conferencing.(Link:

2.1.3 ICT and Energy Sustainability

An estimation of the green ICT market from the World Wildlife Fund, again in terms of emissions abated and energy-related cost savings to all other sectors, put the value of green ICT at $946.5 billion.
 To help ICT professionals in this area, the ACS (Australian Computer Society) has implemented a Green ICT Special Interest Group (SIG) for its members and other ICT professionals interested in discussing and being part of the solution to the climate change issue.
The ACS believes that innovation in developing automated programs to optimize the use of valuable resources is an important area where ICT professionals can make a real difference and achieve global recognition and success.

  • Workstations: Newly developed operating systems for desktops do allow computers to be put into hibernation either on a schedule or after periods of inactivity. Ensuring workstations are put into sleep mode during periods of inactivity, even for relatively brief periods, is a means by which CIOs and others in charge of company desktops can drastically reduce power consumption.
  • Offset programs: Carbon offset programs provide an excellent means by which companies can act to offset their ICT carbon emissions.
  • Server virtualization: Recent software developments in virtualization technology present an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of servers. Using high-performance computers running virtualization software, different applications (each with their own operating system) can be run on one or two servers, significantly reducing power consumption.
  • Desktop virtualization: Taking the server virtualization further by using ultra-small, secure thin clients on the desktop, linking the thin clients to their own virtual desktop machines residing on servers. With desktop environments consolidated within the data centre, firms can deliver secure, isolated desktops that consume less energy.
  • Integrated telephony: Innovation in IP based telephony solutions is going to present opportunities to replace traditional telephone equipment that will generate savings in power usage and call costs. Indeed, if the communications server is combined onto existing servers using virtualization technology, then the power consumption of the entire phone system can be effectively reduced to zero.
  • Automated Power Control: Power saving functions for equipment in offices is not always used by staff. Advanced control systems that are now available to remotely ensure equipment is put into sleep function and then woken up to ensure it is available when required can minimize power usage and reduce emissions.


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