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Green Ict

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Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

By Kyomuhendo Esther Diana

In academic research, the environmental impact of ICT is an important topic, spanning from multiple disciplines. ICT is seen as both a relevant contributor to CO2 emissions due to increasing carbon footprint (Murugesan 2008) and as enabler for reducing the footprint of other sectors through smart systems.

Green Information and Communications Technology stands for a set of initiatives organisations undertake in order to reduce carbon emissions and their carbon footprint produced by their information and communication systems.

According to Bill Tomlinson, Book “Greening Through ICT” he says the term “Green IT” begun to be used at the juncture of two trends. The first trend involves the growing concern about environmental issues across human communities e.g., a Newsweek poll in August 2007 found that 61 percent of adults in the United States said they had personally taken “steps to reduce [their] own energy consumption because of concerns related to climate change and global warming” (Polling Report, 2008).

The second trend involves the use of digital tools and techniques for manipulating information, and the social phenomena that surround these systems. IT is growing at a rapid rate; as an example, while mobile phones were relatively rare a decade ago, now more than half the world’s people have them (Reuters, 2007).

For most people, Green ICT is about reducing the impact of ICT on the environment. It is about reducing the energy use of computers, servers and data centres. You might even consider the whole life cycle of ICT equipment and look at the rare material use or think about e-waste and recycling. However, ICT is not only part of the problem of our environmental impact, it is also part of the solution.

Green ICT has been practiced for cost efficiency but only this has been put into consideration, neglecting the environment idea. This was a very narrow perspective of course, because only the cost-efficient practices were considered and more often than not, this was reasoned from the ICT department instead of the entire organization or beyond. To me, Green ICT is about considering all impacts of ICT on the environment, direct or indirect, positive or negative. We have to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive impacts. 

Yes, ICT can have a positive influence and reduce our environmental footprint: it can be used as an enabler for new environmental-friendly technologies, it can be used to make other processes more efficient and thus reduce their impacts, it can be used to dematerialize atoms to bits avoiding the use of (rare) materials. It all depends on how we use ICT; in the end it remains a means to an end.

So, what is beyond the direct impacts of ICT? How can ICT be part of the solution? There are indirect and systemic impacts to consider. Both can become part of the problem as well as the solution. We can use ICT to dematerialize or substitute other processes or activities: e-mail instead of paper mail, video conference instead of face-to-face meetings. With smartphones, smart tabs, etc., collaboration, meetings can be done. These are some of the tools you and I can use to enable us reduce our carbon footprint at Makerere University.

We will focus on one at a time and come up with videos on how you can use some of these tools.

Zoom/Google Meet/Microsoft Teams/Big Blue Button (BBB) for Online Meetings

During the 2020 Lockdown due to COVID-19, many companies, institutions and Government organizations world over embraced the use of Tele-commuting, Tele-working, and Zoom became the most famous tool besides the likes of Skype that were already having many of the video-conferencing abilities. Since people couldn’t commute to work, meetings, interviews, conferences, etc. were done online.

 Even with COVID infections going down, this can continue to be an adopted measure/mode of work. It will require some policy changes to fully incorporate this into the working Laws.

There are other tools that do the same and are also free, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.

VIDEO: How To Use Google Meet As part of Greening in IT

Google Tools for Research/Document Collaboration

If there is a research document, researchers are working on, they can use the power of Google Docs for collaboration. All you need is to have a Gmail account and you will have access to all the Tools. The beauty about this tool is that collaboration can be done in real-time, the only challenge someone would face is good internet connectivity and high internet data costs if out of campus.

VIDEO: How To Use Google Docs As part of Greening in IT

Find out how to go green!! How To Go Green