ICTs and an Environmentally Sustainable Internet: Another Challenge of Connecting the Next Billion Internet Users

5 December 2008 - A Workshop on Internet Governance for Development in Hyderabad, India


The challenge of connecting the next one billion users to the Internet should also include a discussion about how this can be done in an environmentally sustainable way. Overall, impact of ICTs and the Internet on the environment need to be fully explored. ICT has had the greatest benefit/effect on business and economic structures, such as efficiencies in business processes and the shift away from manufacturing toward the delivery of services.

The Internet services and applications provide new ways to communicate and transfer information, including voice, data and video services. These services can facilitate telecommuting, teleconferencing, e-commerce, telemedicine and other applications that will save consumers and businesses travel expense, traffic congestion and time, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

A main environmental impact has been the increasing power needs of ICT products as the production of electricity to support the spread of ICT and greater Internet can add to Green House Gases (GHGs). Another concern is that the 'rebound effects' of the greater efficiencies in businesses processes and transportation enabled by the Internet and ICTs, lower prices and increase demand for materials and energy, thereby offsetting environmental gains and resulting in neutral or even negative impacts). 

The discussion will focus on how to ICT and Internet use can address environmental problems, and what kinds of complementary actions may be needed to maximize potential benefits by minimizing rebound effects. 
The workshop will also highlight data, policy, and directed research in areas where ICTs can help with climate change solutions (in a way similar to ICTs' effects on communications and business) while providing an environmentally sustainable Internet for the next one billion users or more around the world.