Flash talks between youth and IG edxperts: Environment and the internet: What’s the link?‎

9 Nov 2020 14:00h - 14:30h

Event report

This session was introduced by Ms Anna Podgorska-Buompane (Chancellery of the Prime Minister, Poland) and moderated by Ms Elisabeth Schauermann (Project Coordinator Youth IGF Germany; Policy & Communications Officer, German Informatics Society) and Ms Marta Musidłowska (Member Of The Management Board, Youth IGF Poland). 

Two experts from the European Commission, Mr Ilias Iakovidis (Adviser for Societal Challenges, DG CONNECT, European Commission) and Ms Cristina Martinez (Deputy Head of Unit, DG CONNECT, European Commission), underscored the importance of young people in bringing about change towards sustainability and green ICT, and addressed questions from the audience. 

What are some of the guiding principles?

Iakovidis suggested that to attend to the current problems, it is useful to bring digital, social, and environmental issues together and address them together and in relation to each other. Martinez highlighted that a systemic understanding of the impact of technology use and deployment in addressing environmental and societal issues is crucial. Musidłowska reminded everyone of the circular economy and that every action has to be judged by the reactions it causes. 

What are some of the key concerns related to Information and Communications Technology (ICT)?

Iakovidis highlighted three areas of consideration: ICT energy consumption and how to make ICT more efficient; current material inefficiency of ICT and their non-circular nature; as well as e-waste.

What can be done to make ICT greener?

In terms of increased energy efficiency, the public and private sectors are aligned as both have an interest in greater energy efficiency. In contrast, the private sector needs to do much more to avoid material waste and transform ICT production into the ideal of a circular economy. In this regard, product recycling and greater product durability are crucial, as is the repair, refurbishment, and reuse of products.

What about tech-solutions to make cities smarter?

Martinez highlighted that cities have a huge potential to contribute to overall sustainability. She also cautioned that we need to carefully analyse the impact of any technology. The deployment of one technology comes at the expense of another. The overall footprint of a technology needs to be carefully analysed in terms of, for example, energy consumption, waste, and rare earth consumption. Martinez also warned about the so-called rebound effect, according to which a technology designed to save resources increases the use of the system’s resources in the long run. For example, mobility apps for car-sharing in cities can make a real difference but might also lead to more people using cars, given the convenience and availability. 

What is the role of the youth?

Iakovidis emphasised that what happens in the next 10 or 20 years will be crucial. For him, this is an opportunity for this current younger generation to be the one to turn things around and be known in the history books for bringing this change. Martinez suggested that the youth can and should contribute to a more fundamental re-thinking of (a) what things we value, (b) how we value them, and (c) how we measure success and growth. She suggested that the youth has an important role to play in influencing the public debate on these topics. Iakovidis suggested that the youth have an advantage in bottom-up science communication and could make an impact by teaming up with social media influencers to underscore the importance of sustainability and green ICT.