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Sustaining ICT for Sustainability: Towards Mainstreaming De–carbonization–oriented Design & Enabling the Energy–Efficient, Low Carbon Economy
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Computing.
2009 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

The study set out to understand and demonstrate the role the ICT sector could play as a critical enabler in the transition and progress towards an energy– efficient, low carbon economy. More specifically, the study of sustaining ICT for sustainability has twofold intent: (2) to investigate the direct footprint of ICT sector and explore how it can be tackled through adopting sustainable design–based solutions; and (2) to highlight the enabling potential of ICT sector to mitigate climate change and massively improve energy efficiency across the economy, identifying and quantifying the global ICT impacts and opportunities in the context of energy and carbon emissions savings. To achieve the aim of this study, a pertinent and extensive literature review covering theoretical, empirical, and critical scholarship was performed to investigate the phenomenon. The study draws on a variety of sources to survey the unsustainability of ICT sector pertaining to energy–intensive consumption and explore potential solutions through espousing environmental design practice, and also to examine the role of ICT in delivering energy–efficient solutions through its products and services. Validity was ensured through using quality academic and industry literature as well as relevant studies carried out by a range of eminent researchers, experts, and stakeholders (i.e. NGOs, research centers). Findings highlight the unsustainability of ICT sector regarding energy– intensive consumption and concomitant GHG emissions associated with its products and services. Of the whole lifecycle, the use phase of ICT is the most critical. Data centers and telecom networks devour energy. Planned obsolescence entrenched in software design shorten upgrade cycle, which makes software utilities a planet killer as to energy consumption. Alternative sustainable design–based solutions entail using renewable energy and most efficient energy required over ICT’s life cycle – de–carbonization strategy. Also, digitization is an effective strategy for ICT sector to slash energy use per unit. To reduce the footprint of data centers and telecom networks, design solutions vary from hardware and software to technological improvements. Designing out built–in obsolescence in software technology is a key factor in the energy equation. As for the enabling role of ICT, the findings are highly illuminating. The ICT sector must step up its efforts in reducing its direct footprint in order to claim a leadership role in an energy–efficient, low carbon economy. Although the ICT sector’s own emissions will increase because of global growing demand for its products and services, the real gains will come from its enabling potential to yield substantial energy efficiency improvements and emissions reductions across the economy. The sheer scale of the climate change challenge presents smart development mitigation opportunities for ICT sector to deliver environmentally sustainable solutions. The largest identified opportunities are: dematerialization; intelligent transport and logistics; intelligent buildings; smart power supply; and efficient industrial processes and systems. This study provides a novel approach into sustainable design in ICT, underlining unsustainable design practices in ICT sector. Review of the literature makes an advance on extant reviews by highlighting the synergic relationship between ICT design, sustainability, and the economy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. , 144 p.
Keyword [en]
ICT, Design, Sustainable design, Energy efficiency, Footprint, Emissions reductions, GHG, Climate change, Low carbon economy, Rebound effect, Systemic effect, Dematerialization, Digitization, De–carbonization, Transport, Buildings, Power generation, Industrial processes.
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Human Computer Interaction Economics
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-5936Local ID: diva2:833352
Social and Behavioural Science, Law
+46 704 35 21 35Available from: 2015-04-22 Created: 2010-01-12 Last updated: 2015-06-30Bibliographically approved

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