While we like to think of technology as far-reaching and pervasive, the truth is that many people in the world lack access to the internet - entire nations lacking adequate infrastructure for the ICT sector. In fact, as of January 2021, only 59.5% of the world had adopted the internet.
In a world where access to the internet is seen as an effective way of fostering development - a mechanism for boosting productivity, increasing education, and creating jobs - it’s unfortunate that almost half the world has yet to adopt it. There’s a significant technological gap between developed nations and the least developed ones, wherein the former 90% of its people are online, and in the latter only 20% are.
There are barriers in the form of prohibitively high costs in rural communities and logistical difficulties in implementation. Still, technology diffuses over time, despite what barriers there may be, and it’s projected by 2030 that the internet will be used by 90% of the world’s population.
What does this mean for us? And at what cost?
Digital transformations and internet adoption are inextricably linked with cloud computing. At the forefront of the conversion to the cloud are data centres, which are already overburdened with the sheer amount of data collected by organisations. When we think of ‘the cloud’, we think of it as distant, ethereal, but the truth is that the cloud isn’t some ever-expanding problem on the horizon. It’s tied to tangible things that impact the environment so that each byte of data makes the cloud heavier and heavier until it begins to storm. And the storm is coming.
The internet and its supporting infrastructure are responsible for 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The more data there is transmitted and stored on servers, the more electricity these data centres consume, and the electricity itself has a very real cost to the environment. In 2018 China alone had its data centres account for 99 million metric tones of carbon dioxide, “the equivalent of about 21 million cars on the road.”
When the industrial revolution swept through the world, with its promise of progress and change, it wreaked environmental havoc. In the same way, digitisation has the potential to do the same kind of damage through digital waste. In this day and age, data has become the new plastic.
This is something that needs to be addressed worldwide, but particularly in the Asia Pacific region, which has the biggest market for data centres and where, by 2023, 87% of companies will have begun their digital transformation. Already data centres consume 7% of total electricity demand, and the number is projected to grow to 12% in the next decade. In Africa, data centres are growing at a rate of 100% each year, seen as a “catalyst for economic transformation”.
And that’s not considering the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hastened many businesses’ progression to the cloud.
At Fasade, we understand data itself, in both being transmitted and stored, harms the environment. So we want to simplify the process of managing data, thereby making the carbon footprint of the ICT sector a little smaller and the world a little better
What do you think?
A collection of articles, thoughts, and digital-sustainability tips from our crew here at Fasade
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