April 2009

ICT Adoption: Showing the Way Forward to Green

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Through enabling other sectors to reduce their emissions, the ICT industry could reduce global emissions by as much as 15 per cent by 2020-a volume of  Carbon dioxide emission (CO2e) five times its own footprint in 2020

Every decade is benchmarked by an important event or happening. Maybe this present decade can be epitomized for the historic event of rising of Barack Obama to one of the most powerful posts of the present era, i.e. to the presidency of United States of America. Now this is the obvious part of the story. The latent or the hidden part of the story lies in telling the tale as to how did he rise to this position? Maybe because he was thinking man with a sound agenda whose fundamental issues struck a chord with the not so foolish democratic American Citizenry. If looked at very closely, Obama’s agenda pre as well as post his appointment emphasised greatly on ICT application as well as Green IT application. Very recently according to a news article in a reputed print media  Obama has stratergised a $825-billion stimulus plan which has called for $37 billion spending in three hi-tech areas: $20 billion to computerise medical records, $11 billion to create smarter electrical grids and $6 billion to expand high-speed Internet access to rural and undeserved communities. And this is not the case only with U.S. but also Europe as well as India, are fast catching up with this movement towards prioritizing ICT adoption and Green IT innovations. Can these prioritised steps in the current times of recession be seen as a step towards addressing the needs of connectivity and communication alone? No there is a horizon beyond. And that horizon is that of addressing the issue of reduction of CO2 emission through ICT applications and innovation. Global eSustainability Initiative’s (GeSI) recent Smart 2020 report indicates that “Through enabling other sectors to reduce their emissions, the ICT industry could reduce global emissions by as much as 15 per cent by 2020– a volume of CO2e fi ve times its own footprint in 2020.” Commenting on the global scenario and efforts towards   ICT adoption for cutting CO2 emission Arun Seth, Chairman, BT India says that, “Developing global standards for reducing the energy requirements of networks and equipment will help
make ICT an even more powerful tool for businesses to use in managing their greenhouse gas  emissions and meeting their climate change targets.”

IMPORTANCE OF ADDRESSING CO2
EMISSION PROBLEM

An Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that for  Asia by 2050 due to the Green house Gas emissions: coastal areas, especially heavily  populated megadelta regions in South, East and South-East Asia, will be at greatest risk due to  increased fl ooding from the sea and, in some megadeltas, fl ooding from the rivers; climate  change is projected to compound the pressures on natural resources and the environment associated with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and economic development; endemic  morbidity and mortality due to diarrhoeal disease primarily associated with fl oods and droughts are expected to rise in East, South and South-East Asia due to projected changes in  the hydrological cycle. Carbon emissions have already increased global temperatures by more  than 0.5°C and with no action to cut greenhouse gases, we will warm the planet  another 2-3°C within 50 years. This will transform the physical geography of the planet and the way we live, with fl oods, disease,  storms and water shortages becoming more frequent.

Turning to the economics, the effects of climate change could cost the world between 5% and  20% of GDP, prompting the worst recession since the 1920s. With no action, each tonne of carbon dioxide we emit will cause at least $85 (£45) of damage.

HOW CAN ICT HELP?

Corporate India is increasingly motivated towards reducing CO2 emission through ICT  adoption. For example BT India targeting towards reducing its global carbon emissions intensity by 80% by 2020, has taken to a multi-faceted approach to reducing the impact of  their operation, empowering customers to reduce the impacts from their end by offering  innovative products and services, infl uencing suppliers to provide more energy effi cient  products and services and encouraging their employees to reduce their carbon footprint at  home and at work. Arun Seth of BT India further adds that, “We are also developing  innovative products and services to help our customers reduce their climate change impact.  We launched our Sustainability Practice in 2007 to help our large corporate and public sector  customers make better use of ICT to become more sustainable. The fi rst service launched as  part of the practice is the BT Carbon Impact Assessment, which calculates organisations’ CO2  emissions and recommends ways to reduce them.”

Better utilisation and management of ICT devices at workplaces can also go a long way in  reducing the CO2 emission. First step towards this can be through the adoption of more effi  cient components like micro-processors which are used within electronic equipment, require energy both to operate and for cooling fans. So advances in chip design (such as ‘multi-core’ processors) can save 30-60% of the energy used by the processor if software is written to take advantage of this capacity. Secondly at the workplaces there is an important need of better  power management. Almost all computers now have a low power mode which they can enter automatically after a period of user inactivity. In such modes they will consume very little  power but can often be woken up within seconds. Thirdly in place of desktops at the workplace,  use of laptop computers is more advisable. For laptop computers can sometimes  use as little as a third of the energy of a desktop. Similarly, fl at screen monitors are much  more effi cient than old-fashioned cathode ray tubes. Fourthly, use of thin clients is supposed  to be greatly energy effi cient. Thin clients are terminals that do not do processing  themselves, but allow the user to connect to central servers and display the output. Lastly it is  always advisable to employ multi-functional devices over several separate devices especially at workplaces. For example printers which now often include scanning, copying  and fax functions also, are more effi cient than running several separate devices. This way the number of printers per person can also be reduced, and printers can be set to enforce  double-sided printing to save paper and use of the printer.

Faisal Paul, Head ESS – Marketing & Growth Initiatives, HP, manufacturing software products  and working intently towards towards this better utilisation and management of  ICT devices says that, “As your employee base grows, HP solutions can help increase the effi  ciency of your broader business workplace environment while reducing the overall  environmental impact. HP provides energy saving devices, such as our energy effi cient  business PCs, workstations, and Thin Clients, and enables you to conduct better crosscompany collaboration or support your virtual workforce through HP’s Halo telepresence and  videoconferencing solutions that eliminate unneeded carbon emissions.” Further, HP itself pledges to reduce emissions from its operations and the use of its products by six million tons  below 2005 levels by 2010. In addition, HP is committed to reduce energy consumption by  15% in their operations from 2005 levels, while achieving a 25% reduction in the energy used by our products and operations combined below 2005 levels by 2010.

WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?

Steps like e-Commerce, e-Government could have a signifi cant impact on reducing Green  House Gas (GHG) emissions through the dematerialisation of public service delivery –  particularly in countries where government constitutes a large share of the overall economy. For example, many paper-based services can be moved into the digital environment and  situations where faceto- face interaction has been previously required (e.g. to prove identity)  can be done virtually.

Again coming especially to the scenario of workplaces some of the important ways to cut down  on CO2 emission are through the use of Industry Smart motors and through  Dematerialisation or virtulisation (reduce production of DVDs, paper etc.)

Motor systems, devices that convert electricity into mechanical power, lie at the heart of  global industrial activity. In the global context industrial activity is one of the largest  contributors to global emissions, responsible for 23% of total emissions in 2002. It uses nearly  half of all global electrical power generated, industrial motor systems using the majority  (65%) and in another ten to eleven years, motor systems will be responsible for 7% of global  carbon emissions. Now these motors are ineffi cient as they operate at full capacity, regardless  of load. This same motor can be converted into a “smart” motor when it can be  controlled to adjust its power usage to a required output, usually through a variable speed drives (VSD) and intelligent motor controller (IMC), a piece of hardware controlling the VSD.  There is a lack of information about energy consumption in motor systems. ICT’s main role in the short term, therefore, will be to monitor energy use and provide data to businesses so they  can make energy and cost savings by changing manufacturing systems. Simulation software  is also required to help improve plant and manufacturing process design. Wireless networks  that allow inter-machine and system communication, would improve  effi ciency across an entire factory. The opportunities for industry in adopting ICT-driven improvements to reduce their climate impact are clear – perhaps nowhere more so than in countries where business is booming.

Steps like e-Commerce, e-Government could have a signifi cant impact on reducing   Green House Gas (GHG) emissions through the dematerialisation of public service delivery – particularly in countries where government constitutes a large share of the overall economy”

Dematerialisation or Virtualisation can be applied to a range of current everyday practices  and ultimately reduce the number of material objects that need to be produced. Online  billing, video conferencing, audio conferencing, fl exi-work, online billing, web-based tax  returns, replacing paper and CDs, all reduce the emissions associated withtheir manufacture   nd distribution. Online media, e-Commerce, e-Paper, telecommuting replacing face-to-face meetings – could play a substantial role in reducing emissions. Teleconferencing and  videoconferencing could replace between 5 and 20% of global business travel. Advanced  videoconferencing applications in the early stage of adoption could have a very signifi cant impact in highly distributed service industry environments in both the private and public sectors.

Dematerialisation could also reduce emissions indirectly by infl uencing employees’  behaviour, building greater awareness of climate change and creating a low carbon culture  throughout businesses. Dematerialisation at the very least provides alternatives, allowing  individuals to control their carbon footprint in a very direct way. First adopters could enable  the cultural shifts necessary for ICT-enabled energy effi ciency to take hold in the broader  economy. The opportunity for dematerialisation to reduce carbon emissions could be  substantial at around 500 MtCO2e in the coming ten years – but its effectiveness depends on  behavioural changes, which makes it hard to assess how quickly its true potential will be  realised. In addition, future social change facilitated by nearubiquitous connectivity (mobile  or broadband) would also enable great GHG emissions reductions.

ATTITUDNAL BARRIER TO ICT ADOPTION

Working towards addressing the roadblock of attitudinal problem Arun Seth from BT says  that, “Under the banner ‘I want to make a difference’, a global employee engagement programme is encouraging BT people to make small changes that, together, will make a big  difference and save energy 75,000 tonnes of CO2 over the next three years. BT people can  make a difference individually or as members of carbon clubs.

The carbon club initiative is a great way for colleagues to share ideas and undertake projects  together, while having fun along the way. So far around 130 clubs have been formed –  mostly in the UK, but also in Europe, Asia Pacifi c, Latin America and the United States.” So  undoubtedly ICT implementation has the potential to play a signifi cant role in reducing CO2  emission, yet it has had limited impact so far, mainly owing to low ICT adoption rates. Though  technological barriers are not generally perceived as a major barrier to adoption,  improvements here need to contribute to a more positive attitude towards the technology  adoption. Many companies are still unwilling to adopt dematerialisation technology at higher rates because it requires adopting new ways of working with signifi cant cultural shifts. So the  challenge is to not only to improve the adoption rate of ICT but also to demonstrate how this ICT implementation has a broader advantage of allowing us to secure for ourselves a  cleaner and greener environment.

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