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Government ICT energy footprint increases

30/01/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Central government produced an increase in its energy footprint from ICT over 2017-18, according to the latest Greening Government ICT annual report.

Published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), it covers activities in 14 departments and agencies, although not all provided returns on each of the sectors covered in the report.

While it paints a picture of sustained progress in greening the ICT estate, the figures reveal a partial reversal over the year for which figures were collected.

It says the energy footprint figure increased from 856kwh/staff the previous year to 891kwh in 2017-18, but points out this is still well below the 2013 baseline of 1467kwh.

The power consumption of servers was sharply reduced – a result of the gradual transfer of data and applications to cloud systems – but increased in all the other categories, taking in telephony, networks, imaging, audio visual and end users. It is also notable that externally hosted data is not included in the assessment.

The report also points a substantial shortfall in the delivery of best practices in areas such as energy saving and waste reduction. The adoption of these, outlined in the Greening Government ICT Strategy, has steadily increased since 2016, with 63% now delivered or in progress across government. But this leaves 37% not started.

In addition, it points to the amount of ICT waste being the largest so far, but says this reflects a move to smarter working with the accompanying switch from desktops to mobile devices, and the move to cloud.

The report points to the recently published Sustainable Technology Strategy for 2020 and the Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU) as sources of support and guidance for central government in reducing the environmental impact of digital services. One of the priorities will be for the GDU to shift its focus from just aiding departmental procurements to working with the Crown Commercial Service to deliver more sustainable ICT services.

John Seglias

Writing in a Defra Digital blogpost on the report, the department’s chief digital and information officer John Seglias (pictured) expresses some satisfaction with the result, but says the report also highlights challenges and that the impact of legacy systems should not be overlooked.

“A good example is waste,” he says. “Replacing legacy ICT with more sustainable options means that redundant technology removed from government estates was over 1 million kg. The better news is that almost 98% was donated, reused or recycled, with many departments recording zero to landfill.”

He adds that departments need to do more to help employees work with technologies that provide alternatives to travel, and that the report underlines the importance of government departments measuring their progress.

The report also indicates that green ICT is a slight misnomer for the work and that future updates will be titled Sustainable Technology Annual Reports.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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