Where is the Green ICT in ICT4D?

Information and Communications Technology for Development - ICT4D - is an explosive force in the developing economies. It could become an environmentally damaging force unless Green ICT becomes an explicit part of ICT4D. Now is the time to make that happen.

Circumstances have always compelled some sustainability in ICT4D implementations. A lack of access to reliable grid power has made renewable energy like solar PV more attractive for ICT and has encouraged more energy-efficient hardware. Financial constraints have encouraged frugal hardware consumption, as when classrooms deploy virtual desktops.

This sort of second-order sustainability can carry ICT4D only so far. Consider the promise of mobile technology, a cornerstone of ICT4D.

The use of renewables to power remote base stations is being swamped by the use of diesel generators. Increased grid build-out could lessen the attraction of renewables and increased budgets could encourage heavier hardware footprints.

Another challenge is e-waste. Developing economies have long been the dumping ground for obsolete e-gear from the advanced ones, resulting in health and environmental problems. What happens when ICT4D progress begins to generate significant local e-waste streams?

Now is the time for a conscious integration of Green ICT with ICT4D. ICT4D is in a strong position be designed, implemented, and managed to be more sustainable than its developed-economy counterparts - if the ICT4D community has the will to do so!

Despite this, ICT4D institutions seem to be having a hard time grasping this connection. infoDev, a World Bank affiliate, released in 2012 its IC4D 2012: Maximizing Mobile report. It has a wealth of information about the mobile explosion in developing economies, with low- and middle-income economies approaching 80 subscribers per 100 people. Yet the report appears to say nothing about mitigating the environmental impact of this explosion.

This is no exception. A quick survey of current ICT4D best practices promoted on social media did not reveal Green ICT awareness or offer Green ICT tactics.

My interest in ICT4D started with work for the United Nations in Switzerland. Vertatique tcan be a platform to help the two communities grow together. (Click on the "dev-econ" tag, above, to see what we have already gathered about Green ICT and ICT4D.)

You can help move this forward. Send me your stories about the Green ICT in ICT4D!

Click on the "dev-econ" tag at the top of this post for more about ICT4D.)