Friday, August 01, 2008

Green IT, Carbon Economics, Missing the point?

So just returned from a brief break away in the Deep South of England where I indulged in the usual process of theatre, Stratford and RSC - Respect!; the Guildford Cricket Festival, Surrey - you've lost your mojo! and meeting friends and family, the Thai Terrace in Guildford, what a glorious oasis in suburbia! During my break I studiously ignored my BlackBerry - a habit fostered with the introduction of e-mail at HP in 1982 - and only occasionally kept up with the news. However, on return I came across the announcement of a government "green" initiative which hopes to achieve carbon neutraility by 2020.

My colleague, Jerry Fishenden at MS, has previously pointed out that there is an huge opportunity for IT to contribute positively to the reduction of carbon emissions through the effective deployment of services and reduction in waste that can be accomplished using applications. Imagine, full trucks going both ways on the M6; your local white van man making only one tour of your district to deliver web-ordered goods; your choice of transport mode influenced by early warning of traffic delays; etc..

In addition, the news this morning featured shock/horror stories of the fact that the UK carbon footprint may well have grown since 1990 once the total lifecycle of products and services consumed is taken into account, and you'll get a sense of where I am standing on this issue.

I believe that we have an huge opportunity in ICT to revolutionise the way we do work and deliver products and services and that by concentrating on the real challenge of delivering this innovation we will bring into the correct perspective the amount of energy that is expended on ICT equipment. IT is not the problem, it is a significant part of the solution.

Yes, we need to bring our house in order, improving utilisation, reducing power consumption and improving cooling and other energy sinks in our data centres and desktops. But ultimately this is the side show. After all an unnecessary journey in a car is still unnecessary, whether or not the car is an hybrid running at 100mpg or a Ferrari running at 15mpg.

As an industry we need to act as one to bring real innovation and process to this. Let's learn from the leaders in the industry, many of whom are well advanced on both fronts, innovating in the delivery of services as well as the costs of delivery. I really think that the government should look at the benefits accruing to the NHS with the National Programme for IT, and then look again at the state of IT in central government and prepare for significant change. Yes it might take an investment of £10Bn to move forwards, but if planned and executed correctly the efficiency savings alone might pay for the benefits, let alone the potential of removing thousands of commuters from the daily treadmill by opening up new working practices. Its not just about switching equipment off!

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