UK public sector Green efforts lack focus, says report

A worrying 67% of public sector IT managers in the UK are "concerned" or "very concerned" about their ability to meet centrally established Green ICT targets, according to a study by charity Global Action Plan and Cisco Systems. The UK Government has set a target for its central ICT activities to be carbon neutral across its lifecycle by 2020, across its offices and its data centres.

The survey highlights a number of the organisational challenges encountered by businesses in any industry when looking to adopt sustainable technology practises. For example, only 16% of respondents are sharing best practice and knowledge in the development and implementation of Green ICT with other public sector agencies, meaning that in many cases staff are not able to learn from the experiences of their counterparts.

Also highlighted was a lack of organisation on the part of the parties involved. Just 22% of respondents have set internal green ICT targets, indicating that initiatives are "not part of a wider coherent strategy"; only 13% of respondents calculate their carbon footprint, which would "provide a starting point for the development of a Green ICT strategy"; and 67% do not see their energy bills, meaning they do not have "the incentives or basic information" to benchmark their performance and measure reductions.

While this is a report focused on the UK public sector, many of the issues here are likely to be common across industries and geographies. According to Green IT research house Verdantix, the period of 2009-2011 is characterised by "incremental change", with it being 2012 before the industry moves into a period of "transformation programmes".

The key issue is that a sustainable ICT programme is wide-ranging in scope, involving multiple departments including IT, facilities management, procurement and strategic functions, and therefore takes some considerable co-ordination. There is a real danger that current Green ICT initiatives are disjointed, with different groups undertaking different work, which while undoubtedly delivering short-term benefits, is less likely to lead to coherent long-term success than a widely-supported corporate programme.

In addition, the report highlights the need for measurement in green ICT deployments. "Before" and "After" numbers enable businesses to see where benefits have been accrued and where further work needs to be done -- and are also useful when it comes to communicating progress to the outside world.

A report, Greening Government ICT, is available here.
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