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Writing and sending an email. Booking a train ticket. Finding an address in an online directory. Streaming a video. Chatting on a social network. Shopping from a drive-in. Sending a package from your home: digital services have invaded our daily life.

Consumer Technology

For A Sustainable Design Of Digital Services

Writing and sending an email. Booking a train ticket. Finding an address in an online directory. Streaming a video. Chatting on a social network. Shopping from a drive-in. Sending a package from your home: digital services have invaded our daily life.

By Frédéric Bordage, from GreenIT and the Sustainable Digital Services Design collective

Writing and sending an email. Booking a train ticket. Finding an address in an online directory. Streaming a video. Chatting on a social network. Shopping from a drive-in. Sending a package from your home: digital services have invaded our daily life.

While they are underpinning the global economy and our daily life, we are designing them without worrying about our planet nor human beings. Is this the digital world we want to pass on to our children? If this is not the case, it is time to turn towards an approach that favors a sustainable design of digital services.

We create exclusion and digital fat

Concerning the HR part, digital industry creates disability and digital divide, where there could be inclusion. Hardly any website or online service are accessible to people suffering from a disability. If you are blind or visually impaired, like 135 millions of persons in the world (WHO), you are left by the wayside by the publishers of online services.

Of course, you have to own a recent computer or smartphone to gain access to online services, which enhances the digital divide. In France, for example, you can’t’ use the website « leboncoin.fr » if you still use Windows XP.

We watch millions of people missing the « digital transition », without any reaction. Beyond the human side, this negligence costs a lot in terms of economic efficiency as they represent as many lost or unsatisfied clients.

Considering the environmental side, let us be honest: digital transition still does not rime with environmental transition. Digital services are obese. This digital fat significantly increases the exhaustion of abiotic resources, climate change and biodiversity collapse.

In terms of environmental footprint, internet is a sixth continent mobilizing every year 1037 energy TWh (including embodied energy), 8.7 billiards of m3 of water, and producing 608 millions of tons of greenhouse gas emission (GreenIT.fr). That represents for energy as much as 40 nuclear plants, ie twice as much as the French park.

Sadly enough, it is only the beginning, as connected objects will amplify considerably these impacts. 50 to 75 billiards of connected objects are expected to be used before 2020. Just imagine the energy and resource consumption to produce them and to run them.

Sustainable design: a profound expectation

All wills — clients / end users, designers, etc. — converge towards a complete and string expectation addressed to the digital services: human and environmental efficiency must be taken into account starting by their design. This is what digital sustainable design is all about.

This does not mean to repaint in green your new website or to optimise ex post the coding to gain a conscience. This approach goes deeper and means thinking and designing digital services while encapsulating all sides of sustainable development — economic efficiency, social progress, environment protection , not only in terms of impact reduction as in terms of value creation.

This new posture, positive and creative (bringing meaning, future, inclusion and added value) is a great opportunity to build operationally and positively « the live together » which is the fundamental basis of a more sustainable development of our society.

Read the entire article here

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The Beam Magazine is an independent climate solutions and climate action magazine. It tells about the most exciting solutions, makes a concrete contribution to eliminating climate injustices and preserving this planet for all of us in its diversity and beauty. Our cross-country team of editors works with a network of 150 local journalists in 50 countries talking to change makers and communities. THE BEAM is published in Berlin and distributed in nearly 1,000 publicly accessible locations, to companies, organizations and individuals in 40 countries across the world powered by FairPlanet.

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