Lack of awareness, data hampers progress of green ICTs

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Dakar, Senegal

Green ICTs, described as the sustainability of the technology itself as opposed to greening using ICTs – using ICTs to achieve sustainability – has become a critical issue as the world continues to face climatic and environmental challenges.

And measuring the progress of green ICTs, especially in a challenging environment such as Africa, has proved to be a mountain to climb due to the lack of awareness and data, experts say.

“The first thing is there is a need to create a huge awareness about the use of ICTs everywhere, from schools to offices, churches or in homes,” technology analyst Seydou Diabate told Biztechafrica.

 “It is a big mistake to look at technology only at one perspective, which is a catalyst for development and prosperity. Technology can be both an engine for development and destruction. If we continue using it recklessly – in the way we are doing it now – I don’t think one day there be will anyone left in this planet to continue using it because it will destroy us all,” Diabate said.

“My big worry is that governments around the world, especially in developing countries, are not telling their people how to dispose of their technology equipment after the end of its lifespan. Advertising campaigns should be run to say, ‘hey use it responsibly and dispose of it responsibly’. The consequences of disposing our old equipment irresponsibly could be devastating, and this is hurting the environment and hampering green ICTs.”

Environmentally-conscious Diabate said it hurts him to see how old IT equipment lies everywhere in Africa’s streets and dumping sites.

Experts say measuring green ICTs properly can only be done by benchmarking countries to see who is serious about the sustainability of ICTs, and who is not moving forward.

The Global Information Society Watch says benchmarking can provide insight into the relative position of countries regarding their progress, but most importantly provides examples and best practices for countries that are ahead of the game.

However, there is one problem, Diabate said. The lack of data in other countries, especially in Africa, could also seriously challenge this painstaking exercise.

He said: “There are many countries in the developing world that do not have proper national environmental programmes and projects, let alone enough budgets for this sector.

“How are you going to benchmark such countries when measuring green ICTs and how are you going to develop indicators for benchmarking if for example Mali or Ivory Coast do not have data. Will you even include them in the benchmarking list? No. And that constitutes a big obstacle in the progress of green ICTs.”

The Global Information Society Watch said many indicators may be relevant but data will not be available for a number of countries.

GISW explained: “For example, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has established that there is a lack of reliable and standardised data regarding unused equipment and its disposal, and that national household surveys in general lack questions in this area.

“This lack of data makes it difficult to monitor developments regarding green ICTs, and assess the  impact of measures taken.” 

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