IT can aid a green future

The Green Party's thoughts on IT's place in society

The Green Party's thoughts on IT's place in society

IT has the potential to play a key role in developing a truly sustainable and just society, both locally and globally. It is the key to de-coupling wealth creation from ever more material objects and moving them ever further distances.

IT is also necessary for the creation of much of the sum body of the knowledge of humanity, the core of our society's true wealth. For example, it enables us to understand how and why the climate is changing, a prerequisite to dealing with this life-threatening problem.

The Green Party is in favour of using telecommunications as a substitute for travel, through homeworking and videoconferencing, for example. We would introduce measures to aid the growth in these sectors in parallel with measures to discourage fossil fuel-dependent business travel.

We see the internet as a powerful liberating force, providing large amounts of valuable information at low cost to people almost everywhere. We are pressing for broadband to be provided everywhere across the country, like gas and electricity.

This would help reduce the pressure on people to move to the more economically active areas, such as the South East, and so help ameliorate the higher house prices there and the lower ones elsewhere.

E-commerce and e-government need to be provided in such a way that access is available to all, such as in public libraries. Adequate promotion and an emphasis on ease of use, together with the continuation of non-e-service provision are essential to ensure universal access.

Government at all levels should promote adherence to IT standards, particularly open standards, and the use of shareware and open source software.

Economic theory suggests that, for optimal wealth creation, goods should be priced at the marginal cost of production - the cost of producing one more unit.

This is near zero for open source software, so wider use of open source is highly economically desirable. This is particularly so in developing countries, where conventional pricing makes much legal software almost unaffordable.

The Green Party strongly opposes software patenting. Copyright works well enough to protect intellectual property rights. The flag of intellectual property must not be used to give more power to rich corporations while preventing the general use of cheap software.

IT is also being used to make transnational companies more effective, which increases their wealth while drastically damaging the biosphere.

The IT industry is also threatened by increasing centralisation of market share and power. The Green Party would seek to mitigate transnational companies' power and ideally lead to widespread de-mergers by measures such as setting up capital controls to ensure profits are reinvested in the countries of origin; legislating against transfer-pricing activities, and by "site here to sell here".

We need an international legal framework to ensure that hardware is manufactured to be long-lasting, energy-efficient, up-gradeable, reusable or recyclable and to minimise environmental impact.

Tony Cooper is chairman of the Green Party IT committee

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