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Global Green ICT Update: Asia-Pacific

Short updates from Asia-Pacific. Click here for regional Green ICT updates from around the globe. Click on 'Asia-Pac' tag above for all news about the region. Our latest item looks at the scope of GreenICT.

The 2016 Seed Awards in India are promoting a "Green ICT" theme, but the description is a little off. "Does your eco-inclusive enterprise demonstrate social & environmental impacts through application of information and communications technology? Or does it provide solutions for sustainable consumption or production using information and communications technology?" This appears to be an example of confusing GreenICT with ICT4Green, nevertheless, we would encourage any enterprise with a true Green ICT focus to consider entering. This can help align ICT4D with Green ICT.

The New York Times reported in July 2016 about China's growing Bitcoin mining industry. The article's energy-consumption figures suggest that 40% or more of global Bitcoin mining now takes place in China. Photos show these mining centers looking more like aging industrial buildings than gleaming modern data centers, but energy-sourcing issue are the same everywhere. We've noted how energy availability plays a big roll in siting data centers and Chinese Bitcoin mining is no different. "[One operator] said he had become an expert in finding cheap energy, often in places where a coal plant or hydroelectric dam was built to support some industrial project that never happened. The Bitcoin mining machines in his facilities use about 38 megawatts of electricity, he said, enough to power a small city."

GSMA Mobile Intelligence issued a June 2016 report and infographic about mobile growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Mobile subscribers numbered 2.5 billion at the end of 2015 and are forecast to grow to 3.1 billion in 2020 (CARGR 4.5%). Penetration will grow from 62% to 74% over the same period. The number of connections will grow from 3.9 billion to 5.0 billion (5.0% CAGR), suggesting the usage is growing even faster than subscribers. All this growth will require the deployment of 1000+ datacenter servers during the 2016-2020 period.


A December 2014 report about e-waste in India forecasts emergence of a high-growth industry to deal with the problem. "Growing need to reduce toxins discharged from unattended e-waste has triggered more investment in the market...Analysts forecast the E-Waste Market in India market to grow at a CAGR of 26.22% over the period 2014-2019." An other report by the same authors forecast a 19.41% CAGR for e-waste management services in China.

A November 2014 report from IDC says that "...the number of internal high-end datacenter environments, which typically require longer-term commitments of assets to build or refresh, will continue to grow [through 2018]. Much of this growth can be attributed to continued strong datacenter construction in China and construction of large datacenters to replace smaller, more dispersed enterprise datacenters. The continued buildout of larger datacenters ensures that actual internal datacenter space will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4% over the forecast period and account for nearly one third of total worldwide datacenter space (all types) in 2018." About 80% of China's electricity is generated by coal.

A July 2014 report from Juniper Research says that "...charging mobile devices will generate more than 13 megatonnes CO2e (CO2 equivalent) of greenhouse gases per annum globally by 2019...Nearly 50% of these 2019 emissions –equivalent to annual emissions from 1.1 million cars – will come from coal-fired Asian electricity grids powering growing smartphone use...there is low consumer awareness of renewable energy and sustainable habits in these markets. It is down to vendors to take the lead in making energy companies provide more green electricity for both industry and consumers."

The Asia Green IT Forum was held on 3 June in the Philippines. The event resulted in a 6-point joint statement on Green IT in the region. This is critical because average datacenter PUEs in Asia/Pacific were still above 2.0 in 2013, as they were in most regions of the world.

The Asia-Pacific hosts more Green ICT conferences than any region and you can click the 'Asia-Pac' tag, above, to see progress on many fronts, but it still can be difficult to find evidence of sustained industry initiatives. The English-language Asia Green IT Forum Portal Site is a case in point. The Japanese site links to India's Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) Green IT initiatives page, but clicking the link yields a page-not-found error. More exploration of the MAIT site uncovers an e-waste initiative, but that appears not to have been updated since 2011. The Forum's link to the Korea Green IT Business Association also fails and a look at the Association's web site suggest no activity since 2012. We've reached out to these groups for updates.

Outreach for updates does not always work, though. All three email addresses for the authors of the NTT (Japan) document Green Energy for Telecommunications was bounced by the NTT server.

Sustainability in telecommunications equipment, infrastructures and operations is a crucial component of Green ICT. ITU Telecom World 2013 is happening in Bangkok, Thailand, during 19-22 November. The conference program seems to be heavily promoting the expansion of global telecom, but I could find nothing focusing on minimizing that expansion's resources/toxins footprint.

The New Yorks Times reports in July 2013 that Hewlett-Packard is reviving the concept of the 'Silk Road' to ship electronics from China to Europe by train. Cleaner transport is one benefit. "…persistently high oil prices made the cost of airfreight daunting — as much as seven times the cost of rail freight. H.P. was also concerned about the carbon emissions involved in airfreight, which are 30 times those of the rail or sea routes." Rail turned out to be cleaner than air and faster than sea.
Hewlett-Packard and Green ICT
New York Times' Interactive Version of the article

Fast Company's list of 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012 is topped by Chinese activist Ma Jun, Director of the nonprofit Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE). Ma's focus on pollution began in the 1990s and became critical to Green ICT a few years ago. "In 2009, his team began to notice several cases of health problems due to heavy-metal pollution being reported in local newspapers. 'To our surprise, the source wasn't mostly mines or government-operated smelters,' he says, 'but factories manufacturing global IT equipment'…By April 2010, Ma had discovered 29 major tech brands using factories with hazardous operations." Ma and IPE gained global recognition in 2011 by challenging the Apple, allegedly the largest and least responsive of the tech giants implicated in Chinese pollution. Learn more from our 2011-12 coverage of Ma, IPE, and Apple.

UK Berkley's Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions (TIER) program's Village Base Station (VBTS) went live in February 2013 in Papua, Indonesia. VBTS "…only requires a peak power of 80W [and runs] here solely on micro-hydro and solar power." This power requirement is only for local voice service and does not include interconnect or data service. The project hopes to use "ISP-grade long-distance WiFi networks" to upgrade services while maintaining low power consumption. TIER has published a video containing a technical discussion.


E-waste - Designing Take Back Systems (2012) sounds an alarm for India's e-waste crisis. "India currently is estimated to generate 8 lakh [800,000] tones of E-waste annually...about 95% e-waste recycling still happens in the informal sector that employs children and women in large numbers, who use most hazardous processes in the recovery of recyclable parts and material...Delhi alone generates more than 32 tonnes of e-waste /day...40% [of electronics] brands surveyed did not have any physical collection centers and many of the brands surveyed did not even have any take back policy." The report cites factors ranging from "ambiguous" e-waste rules to "Absence of a reliable data on EEE consumption and e-waste generation." (More: India and Green ICT)

CIO reports on the impact of India's massive August 2012 blackouts on its ICT industry, "'Indian providers have had to deal with these contingencies-international telecom cables being sliced, large union strikes that impact workers-so they are generally more prepared to deal with [them],' says Steve Hall, partner with outsourcing consultancy ISG…Tier 1 and tier 2 providers have made significant investments in backup plans capable of providing at least five to seven days of continuous operations in the event of a power failure, says ISG's Hall. Most campuses are equipped with diesel generators, water and other off-grid power sources. 'Their major operations centers are set up to operate like independent nation-states,' says Jim Slaby, research director of sourcing security and risk strategies for outsourcing consultancy HfS Research. 'They also have contingency plans to relocate workers to backup locations in response to extended outages at any one facility, and the ability to reinforce the physical security of their facilities in the event of natural disasters [or] civil unrest.'"

Taiwan's MINIWIZ offers Re-CASE™, a "100% trash made iPhone case" made of rice farming agricultural waste and post-consumer thermo-plastics. "The end result is a highly durable material of architectural grade which is recyclable and able to be manufactured at an unbeatable minimum of CO2 emissions…The reprocessed rice husks serves as a performance enhancer that counteracts the mechanical strength loss due to degradation of poly propylene as it is recycled…Our design was inspired by the inrö, a Japanese Edo-Period accessory used to carry small objects, such as identity seals, and often shaped to provide tactile stress relief."

IBM has opened what it describes as "the first-ever server remanufacturing center in China. The new center, located in Shenzhen, will help reduce the impact of e-waste on the environment by extending the life of older IT equipment that otherwise would go into landfills…The demand for IT products in emerging markets is growing; however, not all businesses want to purchase new products…As the first IT provider licensed by the government to remanufacture servers on mainland China, IBM can help clients affordably acquire [servers] locally to supplement and support their IT operations while helping the environment."

Focus Tiawan reports the country is debating the benefits of competing for data centers. "Acer Inc. Chairman J.T. Wang said…that he disapproved of the government's policy to encourage businesses to set up such centers in Taiwan. They usually consume a lot of electricity, have high levels of carbon emissions and do not help promote the development of the local cloud computing industry…It is more important to develop cloud-based applications that meet people's daily needs…" The government's stance: "Taiwan welcomes local and foreign companies to set up data centers on the condition that the facilities are beneficial to the country as a whole…Asked if data centers might consume excessive amounts of electricity and water, [an official said] that the government would not allow companies to establish such centers before coming up with supporting policies."

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Images courtesy MINIWIZ, TIER

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