Sunday, July 05, 2009

Path to Greener Government

The report "The Path to Greener Government", was launched 2 July 2009 by the UK non-profit group Global Action Plan and Cisco. This reports that most UK public sector ICT managers were not confident about meeting the carbon reduction targets in the UK Government Green ICT Delivery Unit's Greening Government Information Communication Technology (ICT) Strategy. Also reported is that the use of electricity in UK government buildings increased by 3%, with ICT one likely cause.

This has implications for Australia, as the Australian Government ICT strategy is based largely on the UK government approach.The architect of the Australian Government ICT Reform Program is Sir Peter Gershon, from the UK. If the UK strategy is not working , then it is likely the same approach will not reduce Australian Government greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian Government was to release a plan for Green ICT Quick Wins by the end of 2009, but so far there is no documentary evidence of any plan being prepared.

The report is 24 pages of PDF. Here is the executive summary:
Executive Summary


Government is Britain’s largest purchaser of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and when used this equipment is responsible for up to a fi fth of the Government’s carbon emissions - 460,000 tonnes a year1. In total, Government estates spend over £13 billion on ICT annually2. Computer systems are an essential element in the delivery of effective public services, but this delivery may sometimes come at a cost to the environment.

Government recognises the critical importance of ICT not only as a large consumer of energy and primary resources but also as an enabler for environmental and cultural change. Given this level of importance, Central Government has taken a leadership role producing an overarching Greening Government ICT Strategy, developed by the UK Government Green ICT Delivery Unit of the Chief Information Offi cer (CIO) Council. Introducing this strategy, Tom Watson, then Minister for Transformational Government stated:

We want our technology to be effi cient; we want it to be more sustainable and above all we want to be responsible in the way we use it’.

The Greening Government ICT Strategy contains a number of targets and initiatives including the following:

Government has set itself the target of achieving carbon neutrality for all of its Central Government offi ce estates by 2012 with the overarching commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

A Green ICT Delivery group has been established by the CIO Council to increase best practice for informing green ICT.

The CIO Council’s Green ICT SOGE (Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate) Map now obliges every Chief Information Offi cer (CIO) and Chief Technology Offi cer (CTO) to complete a Green ICT Roadmap with 18 steps. On 17th April 2009, the CIO Council formally mandated action on 10 of these proposed 18 steps.

The environmental charity Global Action Plan was commissioned by Cisco to explore how effective the Government’s leadership role has been in creating change across the whole of the public sector. The research consisted of two main elements; interviews undertaken by Global Action Plan with leaders in green ICT, from the public sector, its stakeholders, the private sector and ICT suppliers; and a questionnaire sent out by Computer Weekly specifi cally for this study which generated 173 responses.

Key Research Findings


The leadership role Government is playing in green ICT thinking is widely recognised and praised. The strategy is believed by respondents to be comprehensive and considered.

Last year, Central Government recorded a 3% increase in carbon emissions from electricity use in its buildings, with ICT identified as one of the likely key drivers in this increase.

If Central Government does not speed up the implementation of the strategy it could potentially be adversely hit by its own Carbon Reduction Commitment. Awareness and response to the Government’s Greening ICT strategy

Overall 60% of respondents were not aware of the Government’s Greening ICT Strategy. 41% of national government respondents were not aware of the strategy even though it specifi cally covers their area of activity.

67% of respondents that are aware of the Greening Government ICT Strategy are concerned or extremely concerned that targets contained within the report will be diffi cult to achieve.

70% of respondents feel green ICT is important despite the credit crunch.

According to the survey fi ndings, only 16% of respondents are currently sharing knowledge and learning with other public sector organisations in order to achieve their targets.

Implementation Strategies

Only 20% of responding ICT departments pay for some or all of their organisations’ energy bills for which their ICT is responsible. This does not help to incentivise the introduction of energy effi cient technologies.

Only 13% of respondents calculate the carbon footprint of their ICT activities. This should be baseline data for the development of a green ICT strategy.

Only 22% of respondents have set internal green ICT targets. This suggests that distinct green ICT advances which are being implemented are not part of a wider coherent strategy or that internal communication mechanisms may not be effective.

39% of respondents are not aware of the percentage utilisation of their server estate which is important baseline data in the development of a green data centre strategy. Implementation of specifi c initiatives

Take-up of server optimisation, decommissioning idle server equipment and reusing equipment is high (between 59%-69% implementation across all respondents). There are lower implementation levels around server virtualisation, ambient room temperature initiatives and undertaking a data centre layout audit.

44% of respondents have changed replacement procedures in order to extend the lifecycle of equipment.

A high level of respondents have implemented initiatives around shutdown of PCs when out of hours, reuse of PCs and not over-specifying equipment (between 59%-75%). Lower levels of implementation were reported for time switches on non-network equipment and reducing PC and laptop numbers.

There is a consistently reasonable level of implementation around greener printing initiatives with take-up ranging from 53-64%.

The majority of green ICT initiatives focus on reducing the impact of ICT directly e.g. switching off and reducing printing, rather than initiatives using ICT proactively to generate environmental savings in other organisational activities e.g. travel. For example, there was low implementation of initiatives to promote fl exible working (TelePresence/video conferencing etc.) to reduce travel and to enable smarter use of energy in buildings.

Future support required

Respondents identifi ed three areas where they need more support from Central Government:

1. Clearer evidence of the benefi ts of green ICT and how it can help public sector bodies.

2. A green ICT capital investment fund to enable public sector bodies to invest in green ICT technology solutions.

3. More internal leadership and direction.



Government is to be congratulated on the proactive leadership role it has undertaken with its Champions Chris Chant and Catalina McGregor as well as the wider CIO/CTO Council for developing a Green ICT Strategy.

The implementation of this strategy needs to be accelerated if Government is to hit its carbon targets and to ensure that public sector services are not adversely hit by the Carbon

Reduction Commitment.

Government should consider how it can better use its procurement weight to drive change across the wider ICT sector, leading to more effi cient technologies.

Government should adopt the targets set in the Strategy for the wider public sector outside of the CIO Council structure, including Local Government.

The CIO/CTO Council Green ICT Delivery Unit is a part time, voluntary body. Government should look to establish dedicated posts from within this experienced group to ensure implementation of the Strategy is accelerated and completed by the most informed minds in the sector.


Government and CIOs in particular should consider creating a stronger communications strategy to ensure that the Green ICT Strategy and its deliverables better reach Central Government Departments, Executive Agencies and wider public sector organisations.

It remains unclear what exact CO2 savings can be achieved by delivering the 18 steps in the Strategy and Government must look to provide more concrete fi gures, indicative metrics and methods for public sector bodies to measure their own ICT related carbon emissions.

Strategic support

Government should encourage public sector organisations to place their green ICT initiatives within a coherent overall strategy, which links to each organisation’s sustainability strategy.

This strategy needs to ensure that internal targets are set and that essential baseline data is collected (such as a scorecard). Data should include carbon footprints and the energy costs of running and cooling ICT.

Green ICT targets should be incorporated within Government’s current SOGE target structure to ensure a coherent picture is provided to the public.

Implementation support

Public sector organisations are concerned about hitting green ICT targets and need support. Government should consider how best it can demonstrate the positive impact green ICT initiatives may have by promoting transparency and case studies, increasing collaborative working possibly through knowledge transfer networks and establishing a green ICT stimulus package.

Government should consider how it can better incentivise green ICT initiatives that can create environmental savings in other areas e.g. employee travel, as implementation of this type of initiative is currently low according to the survey results. ...

"The Path to Greener Government", Global Action Plan and Cisco, 2 July 2009

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