I often wonder how emerging / developing countries especially in sub-saharan Africa would be able to implement an effective Green Information Technology (IT) strategy. Green IT can generally be defined as all practices that aim to increase the environmental impact of IT use. This could be in areas like energy efficiency and the use, maintenance and disposal of environmentally friendly components.
Gartner estimates that the IT industry globally. accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions (just as much as the aviation industry), but one would not normally associate IT with that much contribution to global warming.
Even though there are major challenges in the business, political and socio-econmic environment in this region, it would seem there are massive gains to be realised by adopting practices that utilize environmentally sound technologies.
The region has one of the highest penetration rates of personal mobile phone usage. Mobile banking, money transfer and payment systems there are often more advanced (than in developed countries) and are used by people from all walks of life.
Just think of all the infrastructure required to support and service this large and growing customer base and the potential for implementing greener sustainable IT technologies and practices.
However, countries in this region do face some unique challenges in trying to implement a Green IT strategy
The lack of financial resources most likely means that infrastruture procuremment decisions may be based purely on cost, with environmental aspects considered as an after thought.
The lack of appropriate local technological skills could mean a dependence on foreign “patented” technology which may be subject to export restrictions or high licensing costs.
The lack of an “advanced” regulatory framework to encourage companies to invest in Green IT practices (adopt cleaner energy sources, ensure that there is proper disposal and recycling of technology componenets.). This may also not deter companies from using components that for example have high toxicity levels or follow prescribed standards and processes.
Finally, there may be other pressing priorities of the governments and environmental issues may just be lower down that priority list.
Which way forward ?