On track for 6.8 billion years of continuous movie streaming: Data, energy & need for digital decarbonization

Ian Hodgkinson, Lisa Jackson and Tom Jackson make the case for hidden carbon costs of digital technologies and the need for shining a spotlight on digital decarbonization in a blog post for the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation.

Digital data generation is on the rise, with the increased use of smartphones wearables and sensors, cloud computing and big data technologies.

However, this also means that we are using more energy to store and process this information, causing significant sustainability issues across the globe. Digitalization processes and digital data may not be obvious polluters, compared to well recognized contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and broader environmental pollution such as non-recyclable plastics, where the physical waste and the damage done are highly visible.

But while we may not be able to touch or feel it, the impact of digital on the environment is real. And beyond being real, it is significant. The carbon cost of digital data needs to be publicly understood and, if we are to meet the ambitious climate targets, become a matter of priority for organizations and governments alike.