Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Digital Britain

Yesterday the UK government published its long-awaited Digital Britain report which "offers a strategic view of the sector, backed by a programme of action". Its a long report (245 pages - the Executive Summary is 18 pages) so it's not for the faint-hearted. If you want to take a look it's here.

Given that significant contribution that digital communications can play in reducing carbon emissions in the environment one would expect quite a lot of comment on green aspects in the report, but there only appears to be one page (page 83) that directly addresses the issue, under the heading of "Telecommunications and Climate Change".

The page refers to:

- telecommunications replacing the need to travel, mobile radio in fleet management and the roll-out of smart meters.

- carbon emissions associated with mobile users and re-iterates the governments commitment to cutting emissions.

- the need for innovation, with an example of a company (4energy) which is trialling an alternative to conventional air conditioning for keeping telecommunications equipment rooms cool. There is also a research programme in British universities to reduce energy requirements for delivering high speed data services.

I searched the document for other references, with the following results:

Environment:

- There is a proposal to appoint a Champion for Digital Inclusion and Expert Task Force. Among their tasks is: Intelligence and Focus - To monitor and evidence the risks and opportunities of emerging digital technology for excluded groups and communities and minimise the environmental impact from these technologies.

- A comment that the government will "work closely with manufacturers to examine the environmental impact of the Digital Radio Upgrade".

Green:

- The only comment not on page 83 is a reference to the public sector green ICT Strategy to drive sustainability (no details).

I also searched for Climate, Carbon, Footprint, CO2 and Emissions, but there were no other relevant comments.

It's disappointing because there are lots of other green aspects to talk about and issues surrounding digital growth. For example, better broadband access helping home working, the 'dematerialisation' of products and services reducing the impact of a variety of environmental factors, the move to videoconferencing, etc.

There is also the reverse aspects that I mentioned the other day. The growth of the use of video over the internet and mobiles will mean a continued rapid growth in data centres, increasing CO2 emissions. Is there a policy to minimise this impact?



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