Environmental issues caused by information technologies

Information and communication technologies (ICT) have known a rapid development in the past two decades (EPIC, 2019). As a result, businesses are now dealing with colossal masses of information and more complex systems. In 2007, carbon dioxide emissions from information technology reached almost 400 metric tonnes due to the growth in the use of electronic devices such as desktop and laptop computers (Airehrour et al., 2019). The information technology industry projects a 20% share of electricity consumption by 2025, which accounts for 5.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions (Andrae, 2017).

One of the main reasons for this huge increase in carbon dioxide emissions is the use of Rare Earth Elements (REE) by the IT industry such as: lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, and promethium. All the electronic devices that we know today are built from these elements. Not only the use of these devices but also the process of their manufacture, lead to a high emission of carbon dioxide (Airehrour et al., 2019). Information system managers are facing a dilemma today, they must quickly take part in the fight against global warming by minimizing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of technology while adding value to businesses. But how should they proceed?

The answer is relatively simple, IT industries must mainly focus only on Carbone emissions related to their scope and CIOs are solely responsible for the use of information technology and their resulting energy consumption. Indeed, CIOs must try to use efficiently computer resources by switching from traditional computing characterized by using desktops and printers which can be expensive in terms of energy consumption, to other energy-efficient laptops and other paperless solutions that reduce the use of physical documents.  They can also opt for powered systems which contribute significantly to saving energy compared to desktop computers during their period of inactivity, which can also reduce costs. CIOs must define policies and procedures and put in place all the necessary infrastructure to allow power-consuming devices to be turned off while they are not in use, as this can significantly reduce the carbon footprint.

Today, a new Popular term has appeared which is “Green Information Technology”, this term designates the energy consumption reduction related to ICT (Batool et al., 2019).  The IT sector currently plays a very important role in environmental change, it offers a unique framework to guide strategic decisions relating to sustainable development (Müller, 2018). The evolution of information technology

nowadays has made it possible to develop new perspectives in sustainable development, for example, algorithms due to machine learning and the Internet of Things can improve predictive models relating to the emissions of carbon dioxide of IT industries.

In order to achieve IT goals in terms of sustainability, CIOs and IT service providers must improve the efficiency of their data center management in terms of energy consumption by improving storage and cooling systems. And to minimize this emission two possibilities can be offered to IT professionals: the improving of the airflow and the optimization of the refrigeration system. When we efficiently manage the air flow, we can cool the racks of the servers that are in the data center without having to invest a huge amount of money (Macedo et al., 2019). CIOs should consider cloud-based storage in order to reduce carbon’s emission. Indeed, cloud computing can reduce IT Operational Cost by 90% by saving power, space and maintenance (Chandrasekar & Kumar, 2013).  Organizations must also consider e-waste minimization as extremely important, especially to limit the amount of toxic products in the landfills.

IT can help control and detect environmental factors such as energy consumption, water consumption, e-waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and determine the proportion of carbon dioxide relative to these. It can also participate in the effective management of the supply chain in order to optimize the logistic system and reduce the energy used throughout the whole process  (Batool et al., 2019). Today, thanks to EcoDiag services offered by EcoInfo we can provide IT professionnals with a simple and effective method to assess the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from digital activity within a unit and a IT administrator will have an indicator brought back in CO2 equivalents, over the perimeter considered and over a period of one year (Montbroussous et al., 2019).

Today’s CIOs and IT service providers play a vital role in preserving the ecosystem and the environment thanks to the important place occupied by information technologies in organizations. IT professionals, and by extension companies must effectively reduce the carbon emission rate relating to the operation and use of IT equipment, they must also put in place the necessary measures to rebuild this equipment after their end of life in order to reduce e-waste. IT professionals do not have the skills to participate in all activities aimed at improving sustainable development in its other aspects such as social issues and poverty, so they need to let those aspect for the persons that are experts in the field of sustainability.