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Enabling Sustainability in an Interconnected World

As part of a multidisciplinary panel, Dr. Charles Despins, Green ICT Initiative co-Chair, contributed to a 2014 report by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), which had been commissioned by the Government in Canada on "Enabling Sustainability in an Interconnected World". The report was produced with a focus on Canada but most of its observations are still applicable to many countries. The report’s interplay between technologists of different fields as well as sociologists can illustrate how IEEE members and others stakeholders can actively participate in the Green ICT Initiative. This involves contributing to the Green ICT Web Portal, the Green ICT Newsletter, the Sustainability and ICT Magazine, several Green ICT Standards Working Groups to be launched soon and the Greening through ICT* Summit (GtICT) in Paris, May 2017.
Please find enclosed a link to the CCA’s report at:
Report Summary:
Information and communication technologies (ICT) are more than just gadgets meant to entertain. They are devices, systems, and platforms that are transforming how people live, work, and communicate with one another. Interconnected ICT opportunities have the potential to expand access to information, generate economic benefits, and improve Canada’s environmental performance. The opportunities for ICT to support sustainability are endless; the challenge lies in identifying and implementing those that have the greatest potential to benefit Canada.
This report comes at the request of Environment Canada, which asked the Council to assemble a multidisciplinary expert panel to assess the existing or potential opportunities for ICT to contribute to a “greener” Canada. The Panel, chaired by David Miller, President and CEO of WWF-Canada, focused on a three-pillared concept of sustainability, which encompasses economic, social, and environmental benefits.
This unique, forward-looking report highlights a range of technological opportunities, applications, and practices from Canada and around the world that could help move Canada toward sustainability. It also identifies some common challenges to realizing these opportunities and explores possible solutions. The Panel’s report provides an evidence-based approach for assessing and understanding the potential of these technologies, and offers new insights about building an interconnected and sustainable future for Canada.
Key Findings
Having considered the evidence, the Panel found that the potential of ICT to drive sustainability is currently not being fully realized in Canada. The Panel determined that there are substantial opportunities to promote and support sustainability through ICT by building on existing Canadian strengths and capacities, in areas like technology adoption and physical and research infrastructure. These opportunities range from small-scale changes, such as household water conservation through applications that inform consumers of their water use, to large-scale changes, such as more reliable and efficient electricity systems when aging utility networks are replaced with smart grid technologies.
The Panel explored ICT-enabled opportunities within six thematic areas, with details and examples in Chapter 4 of the report:
·      Environmental monitoring
·      Smart interconnected utilities
·      Smart interconnected buildings and neighborhoods
·      Smart interconnected mobility
·      Smart interconnected production
·      Healthy people and healthy communities
Beyond these six thematic areas, the Panel also observed that Canada is well positioned to be a global leader in green data centers due to its stable supply of emissions-free electricity, which can power energy-intensive data warehouses, and its cold climate, which can reduce energy needs for cooling equipment. Green data centers are one of many efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of ICT themselves as they enable centralization of processes such as server and network virtualization.
About The Council of Canadian Academies: The CCA is an independent, not-for-profit organization that supports independent, authoritative, and evidence-based expert assessments that inform public policy development in Canada. The CCA’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the natural, social and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities.