Four Takeaways From the First IEEE Greening Through ICT Summit

The event focused on achieving sustainability through information and communications technology

15 December 2017

Information and communications technology (ICT) presents challenges when it comes to conserving the world’s energy resources and minimizing our collective carbon footprint. While ICT is crucial to our modern lives, it’s contributing to a growing consumption of energy resources and increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s why IEEE, through its Green ICT Initiative, aims to help engineers design ICT that is more energy efficient and yields a lower carbon footprint. Green ICT can be applied to a number of markets to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprints of these sectors.

The initiative held its first Greening Through ICT Summit in October in Paris. Here were the four major themes from the event.

  • 1. SUSTAINABILITY

    The economic benefits of smart ICT-based solutions are well known. However, in the spirit of IEEE’s mission statement, “Advancing technology for the benefit of humanity,” these solutions also must be designed to benefit society and the environment. This triple bottom line of sustainability—economy, environment, and society—is paramount.

    We often have heard that economic growth and environmental concerns are at odds with one another or are mutually exclusive. In parallel, an ICT-enabled so-called fourth industrial revolution is underway. In this context, ICT must be developed with sustainability as a primary objective.

  • 2. MULTIDISCIPLINARY EFFORTS

    In order to achieve sustainability through ICT, our interconnected, interdependent world requires holistic solutions to ICT design, application, and adoption strategies. That’s why multidisciplinary engagement is critical.

    The summit brought together about 50 experts with technical, industry, and public policy backgrounds. As opposed to the traditional “speaker and attendee” format, we used the World Café approach, which is a pragmatic method for continuous engagement, dialogue, and interaction. As such, all participants contributed to a full-day discussion on identifying the main avenues to achieve sustainability through ICT.

    Increased engagement among people with different areas of expertise—including in materials, components, and software—is required to optimize ICT’s energy efficiency throughout its life cycle. This point is exemplified by the standards being developed by the Green ICT Initiative.

    Related: Standards for Greener ICT

    Collaboration between the technology and public policy communities is needed to address issues such as digital literacy, broadband access availability, affordability, and security as well as the community and organizational transformations required to leverage ICT’s potential. Linking broadband and digital economy policies with greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies is relatively low-hanging fruit in terms of potential impact.

    One attendee, a European Commission official, acknowledged that he was previously unaware of ICT’s potential environmental benefits and pledged the commission would pay more attention to them.

  • 3. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IEEE

    IEEE is uniquely qualified to make significant contributions to green ICT. The organization can encourage a multidisciplinary approach by creating a forum for experts from different domains.

    Aside from planning more summits, the initiative has proposed a new magazine, Sustainable ICT, which would be open to contributions from all IEEE societies. The publication would feature articles that address green ICT technology, commercial applications, and public policy.

    These efforts seek to break down silos within IEEE by encouraging collaboration among technical societies and professionals who specialize in ICT components, infrastructure, and applications. Already, standards work initiated by the Green ICT Initiative during the past 18 months has been the result of interactions between IEEE members working at the component level and those at the infrastructure level. Nine standards are in development.

    Related: Green ICT Resources From IEEE

    The initiative has put forth the concept of an IEEE Green Label certification. Such a high-visibility project could enhance IEEE’s brand recognition and increase the organization’s ability to attract new members both from within and from outside its traditional spheres. That includes attracting more young industry practitioners, for whom developing sustainable products is often a key objective of their work.

  • 4. ENGAGING YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

    Young professionals often demonstrate imagination and a knack for conjuring up unique solutions that address technology sustainability. Therefore, they are a vital source of inspiration for green ICT projects, and the initiative is actively encouraging their work in this area.

    The summit’s Green ICT Competition for Young Professionals attracted 30 entries from all over the world, including Australia, Germany, India, South Africa, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.

    Two winners were awarded a cash prize of 500 € (about US $588) and a free trip to attend the summit to present their ideas. Graduate Student Member Hasan Farooq and Senior Member Ali Imran from the United States were recognized for their project, “Spatiotemporal User Activity and Mobility Prediction Empowered Proactive Energy-Saving Framework,” which maximizes energy efficiency in emerging, ultradense ICT networks. And Daniela Torres from Spain was honored for her project, “City E-Waste Platform for Sustainable Management of E-Waste in Smart Cities,” which addressed a life-cycle management strategy.

    A special award was given to 13-year-old Srividya V. Prasad of India, whose father paid for her to attend the summit. She gave a poised presentation on her method to charge vehicle owners fees based on their greenhouse-gas emissions output. The method would equip toll booths with sensors. Prasad clearly defined the problem and the methodology to enact the solution. To our delight, she announced that she plans to attend next year’s summit, to be held late in the year.

    The first Greening Through ICT Summit affirmed that the initiative’s objectives are sound and widely shared. We will be publishing a white paper soon that captures a more in-depth account of the summit discussions, with specific calls to action. This is an effort of critical importance to us all.

Senior Member Charles Despins is cochair of the IEEE Green ICT Initiative.

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