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Technology| Green ICT a Future Megatrend

♻ Introduction

ICT can be both a friend and enemy of the environment. It will continue to be a large consumer of energy and primary resources on one end, as well as an enabler for environmental and sustainable change on the other. We will continue to use ICT to reduce the carbon emissions we generate. Green ICT is an enabler for humankind and has potential to enhance economic growth and to protect the planet.

The social benefit information and communications technology plays in connecting people and their businesses lead to more sustainable utilisation of resources. Using network infrastructure, workers can communicate and collaborate spatial, thus reducing travel. The same infrastructure can also be deployed and operated with less power consumption, less heat generation, reduced footprints and improved efficiencies.
Investment in ICT leads to economic prosperity. Prosperous communities are more inclined to care for their environment than those that are poverty stricken. In this instalment we will consider some of the reasons which make green ICT one of the two mega trends for the future and why we all need to pay special attention to it. We will look at the following ten reasons:

♼ Environmental Sustainability

♼ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

♼ Improved Corporate Image

♼ Business Efficiency and Effectiveness

♼ Consumer and Employee Demand

♼ Competition and Survival Strategy

♼ Regulation and Legislative Compliancy

♼ Reduce Energy Consumption and Cost

♼ Pervasive use of ICTs and Disposal

♼ Dematerialise and Device Convergence

❶ Environmental Sustainability

Information and Communication Technologies can be used to promote environmental conservation and sustainability. They can be used as part of the solution to climate change, from energy consumption, to e-waste management, to ICT equipment production, to solve emerging market challenges and spur innovations. ICT can also be used as a tool to reduce carbon emissions in other sectors and making everyone and everything smart.

❷Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Organisations need to be seen as responsible global corporate citizens and issues affecting the rest of the universe must be their concern. CSR initiatives enhance the brands of companies and individuals by helping them stand out as those that care about the communities they operate within. Going green must therefore be a part of any CSR agenda because global warming has gained prominence.
❸Improved Corporate Image

Challenges affecting the environment are taking centre stage, any processes that destroy the environment or crowd out other citizenry lead to a bad corporate image and negative publicity.

Eco or environmentally friendly practices lead to positive publicity and enhanced corporate image.

❹Business Efficiency and Effectiveness

Enterprises are interested in those operational and existential models that enhance their productivity, efficiency and effectiveness, two factors which affect profitability. Core green ICT processes focus on improving efficiency, effectiveness and saving, which lead to optimised business operations.

Research has shown that there is positive association between good environmental and social practices and corporate financial performance.
❺Consumer and Employee Demand

To succeed a business needs a motivated workforce to man its production lines, and consumers to consume its products or services. Environmentally aware consumers and employees, individually or collectively, are increasing and so is the demand for green processes, products and services. Green corporate behaviour is one major way to appeal to this growing segment of customers and employees.

❻Competition and Survival Strategy

Enterprises always seek to outdo each other and greening the organisation is a means of gaining a competitive advantage over competitors in the market.

Green processes lead to product and company differentiation and great potential for positively dominating the market guaranteeing the enterprise's survival.
❼Regulation and Legislative Compliancy

Country and regional bodies are crafting regulations/legislation to aggressively police all aspects of ICT. Mandatory compliances for products, operations, materials used in production and disposal of electronic equipment are being enacted.

Tax credits for environmental programs are also being introduced. This makes organisational and individual green transformation a must.

In existence we also have requirements that introduce complexities which require addition cost considerations, for example the Sarbanes-Oxley which requires companies to keep more data over specified periods. Ways have to be implemented to fulfil this at the least cost. Issues such as de-duplication and efficient storage methods come to the fore.
❽Reduce Energy Consumption and Cost

Investing in green business processes has a dual benefit of lowering energy consumption and reducing the carbon footprint leading to lower cost. Global energy demands are spiralling and most regions, SADC for example, are already suffering a deficit and projections indicate increasing shortfalls, therefore the demand for new clean energy is rising. Green ICT concepts such as the paperless office have proved to be viable cost cutting measures.

❾Pervasive use of ICTs and Disposal

From an application perspective, ICT is set to permeate all spheres of human life and all dimensions of the universe. This spread presents an opportunity for applying ICT to preserve the environment but also creates a disposal, energy consumption, CO2 emission and other production problems requiring green solutions. These are issues that organisations and individuals have to address.
❿Dematerialise and Device Convergence

Several scholars have intimated that moving bits is always less environmentally damaging than moving atoms. ICT can be applied in ways that lead to the replacement of physical processes and products with their virtual equivalents, that is, the process of dematerialisation.

Huge savings stand to be derived if the whole world transforms into e-cash and an e-transacting economy, this will eliminate the need for printing notes, checks and driving to the bank.

The many devices that we use are equipped with numerous redundant functionalities. These can all be combined into one multi-device. ICT is making the device convergence revolution possible, thus reducing the resources needed to produce and the amount of e-waste at the end of their useful life.

♻The Bottom Line

An analysis of the above points shows that it is all about the money and survival. Individuals and organisations who really want to make it in business and society in the future have to go greens else they will go extinct or slide into oblivion.

Green ICT is now an imperative sustainability issue for all. We can conclusively say it is and will remain an ICT megatrend for the forseable future. The future of ICTs is green.
Article written by Givemore Dube, adapted for denheinfo, 13 July 2014. Feel free to submit your comments.
See also

Two ICT Future Megatrends