The sustainability issue no one is talking about

It’s widely known that IT consumes vast amounts of energy – and it’s only getting worse. Dr Ah-Lian Kor, Leeds Beckett expert, explains that greening of IT success relies on raising awareness and challenging our own energy consumption habits


Dr Ah-Lian Kor

Ah-Lian teaches on our undergraduate computing courses, as well as our pioneering MSc Sustainable IT. When it comes to carrying out your own sustainability research for your dissertation in your final year, she might even be your project supervisor.

Study one of our computing courses and you will complete exciting group projects and work in specialist facilities, developing skills that boost your employability and help you feel confident in your maiden industry role. There is a growing demand for skilled and sustainably-focused IT professionals, so you won’t be short of opportunities to make an impact when you graduate.

My students always enjoy the ‘Logic Programming’ module where I challenge them to create a smart application using logic programming languages.

You will also have opportunities beyond your course. Every year, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, runs a national Green IT Challenge and Ah-Lian encourages her students to take part. LBU students have been runners up several times, for projects such as promoting green transportation via persuasive games, a physical activity tracking app as well as an innovative project idea using drones for planting trees to meet the “Trillion Tree Project”

Can the information technology sector be more sustainable? Dr Ah-Lian Kor, who teaches on our computing courses at Leeds Beckett University, talks about why making IT more sustainable relies on raising awareness and challenging our own habits to show corporations it’s something their customers care about.

Making IT greener

Ah-Lian has been involved with many green IT projects with universities in different countries, including France, Ukraine, and Sweden. She recognises that sustainable IT is yet to be at the forefront of the climate change conversation, so raising awareness through education and innovative research is critical.

The IT sector may account for between 10 and 20% of electricity consumption in 2030 (Enerdata)

In the past, funding for green IT projects was readily available. Now the shift towards machine learning has taken the focus away from finding solutions to reduce the vast amount of energy that technology consumes. So, what can we do to give this area the attention it desperately needs?

Rethinking our use of technology

We can use technology to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, online conference platforms mean we no longer need to travel to face-to-face meetings.

Dr Ah-Lian Kor says, “There are many ways we can control and manage the energy consumption of IT and make devices last longer. By reducing carbon emissions, we can lower the temperature of the atmosphere and pollutants in the air. Ultimately, making technology more sustainable could help us mitigate the impact of climate change.”

Industry needs to change

Ah-Lian argues manufacturers need to make technology more resource efficient. Enhanced power management features are one change industries are making but it is equally important for brands to make equipment that lasts longer.

When it comes to upgrading our mobile phones, Ah-Lian points out, “The features and processing power in new models increases so quickly that consumers are encouraged to upgrade their models regularly. When consumers decide to keep their phones it becomes difficult as they slow down and are not compatible with the latest software applications.”

What you can do

To put it back on big corporations’ agendas, we need to show them we care. And it starts with the way we use technology. Do you know video streaming in HD is contributing to climate change problems? And are you aware sending emails increases your carbon footprint? Energy company OVO s if every adult in the UK sent one less “thank you” email, it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – the equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road. And perhaps you could live with upgrading your phone a little less often?

Together, we can challenge the industry to do better by showing we are taking action as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. Study computing at Leeds Beckett and you’ll learn how to succeed in industry and help shape a more sustainable future for IT.

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