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!

Our survey of ICT4D initiatives reveals shows there is still much to do to integrate Green ICT into ICT4D.


My interest in ICT4D started with work for the United Nations in Geneva, so I have integrated an ICT4D perspective into Vertatique. Click on the "dev-econ" tag to see more about Green ICT and ICT4D.