21 Government departments held at least 3.5 million e-conference audio, web and video calls in 2018-19, reducing the need for civil servants to travel.
The figure, published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs in its cross-government Sustainable Technology annual report, has not previously been collected. As some departments did not provide information, the actual number is likely to be higher.
Defra, which has responsibility for ICT sustainability across government departments and agencies, said it wants e-conferencing to become the preferred method for meetings and has set a target of 40% of government meetings taking place without attendee travel required.
The report says organisations can pursue this by opening staff access to audio, web and video conferencing; fitting conference rooms with suitable equipment; providing audio and video services on devices for users; using the same systems in conference rooms and on devices; and providing training and guidance. It adds that e-conferencing can be built into supplier contracts as the preferred way to meet, rather than face to face.
The report also found that just 0.8% of ICT waste was sent to landfill in 2018-19, down from 2.09% the year before, and that four departments generated £1.9 million from reusing or selling equipment compared with around £100,000 the year before. This is the first year that the report includes data from 21 organisations, up from 14 last year.
“I’m proud of the work Defra group is leading as the responsible department in this area,” said Chris Howes, the department’s chief digital and information officer, in a blogpost. “The opportunities for sustainable benefits from ICT are immense. Our challenge is to make sure we do not increase the burden on earth’s resources unnecessarily in search of these benefits.”
Separately, the Government Digital Service has estimated that it is responsible for around 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. It received specific data on electricity usage from UKCloud, but Amazon and Carrenza refused to pass on information. The service plans to cut the amount of electricity it uses and press its providers for better information.
Image from Pixabay