Digital adoption helps government to go green

Implementing more digital systems in government has led to a reduction in cost and carbon emissions

Implementing more digital systems in government has led to a reduction in cost and carbon emissions, according to the latest green government ICT report.

Jeremy Boss, chair of the government’s Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU), said in the report: “The move to cloud-based, commodity, reusable and digital-by-default services provides opportunities to have greener IT and to use technology to help departments’ operations be more sustainable overall.”

Under the government's Greening Government IT Strategy, which was launched in 2011, departments can take part in an assessment of their green IT efforts, and receive scores of between one and five according to the level of sustainability of their daily IT services.

Level one represents a foundation level of sustainability, level two embedded, level three practised, level four enhanced and level five denotes leadership in sustainable IT services.

During 2014, 16 government departments had their green IT “maturity model” assessed, with the NHS dropping out of the process.

According to the report, 80% or more of government departments reached level three for a number of the assessed areas, including travel reduction, energy optimisation and information and data management.

The GDU report highlighted how the government’s digital push has helped to improve data processing, storage and access.

This included the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) digital-by-default programme, which has led to sustainable digital systems being adopted. The GDU report also called on the GDS to ensure its future government-as-a-platform effort employs systems as energy-efficient as possible.

The report also hailed the development of the Public Service Network (PSN) as an important contributor to efficiency and savings by reducing duplicate network connections.

Assessment of the government departments' green efforts revealed a fall in energy consumption equating to an average of 324kWh per person per year.

Departments have also reduced paper usage and travel through their digital efforts, including the installation of 500 video-conferencing systems and an increase in collaborative working tools.

But the process has not been without its challenges. The report highlighted the difficulty of incorporating ongoing information about sustainability into project design, as well as training staff to recognise when green awareness is part of their skillset.

There is also debate over how green cloud services really are, because although adopting cloud can enable sharing of services, there is no way to assess the energy efficiency of the hosts.

The GDU report stressed the importance of using technology and digital services to create higher levels of efficiency and sustainability.

“We will need to maintain and to continue to harvest the positive commitment and enthusiasm of departmental GDU representatives, without which we would not have made the substantial progress and commitments seen across all departments over the last three years,” it said.

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