The UK government yesterday launched its new Government ICT strategy with the strap-line of ‘Smarter, cheaper, greener’ – the full document is here. It applies to all of the UK public sector - central and local government, the wider public sector and devolved administrations.
Key measures include establishing a Government Cloud or ‘G-Cloud’, providing multiple services from multiple suppliers, consolidating data centres down from ‘hundreds’ to 10-12, creating a Government applications store and implementing a common desktop strategy.
The overall strategy is divided into 14 strands of delivery, listed below.
In terms of greening ICT, there are various aspects of the above strategy that will help, as well as the specific Greening Government ICT plan which is already in place. However, there is little in this document that adds to that Greening ICT plan, except the comment that it will be refreshed to reflect environmental and technological advances and include the following activities to take the plan through to 2020:
• the development of common measures of delivery
• work to be undertaken internationally to agree common product standards and requirements, and
• the development of mandatory minimum green standards for ICT products and services.
In fact the overriding goals for the UK government in greening its ICT are:
• Government ICT will be carbon neutral by 2012.
• Government ICT will be carbon neutral across its lifecycle by 2020.
The real ‘elephant in the room’ is how it expects ICT carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2012. At least there is now a definition, published by the government last October; “Carbon neutral means that – through a transparent process of calculating emissions, reducing those emissions and offsetting residual emissions – net carbon emissions equal zero”.
The government’s own update of greening ICT progress relied on reporting the plans of departments and case studies of actions to indicate progress. What it did not have was a total for government ICT CO2 emissions and details of the reductions made so far, probably because no such figures exist.
Even though offsetting is seen as the last resort in reducing emissions, ICT carbon neutrality cannot be achieved without it. And if offsets are required, paying for them is going to take a sizeable chunk of budget going forward. What will that do to government ICT and how will it impact the ability of ICT operations help the rest of government reduce emissions?