Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Innovation and behaviour change at the OECD ICT conference

Photo care of: Photo Mojo

The factors that contribute to behaviour change have long been an interest of mine. While I try to never preach when discussing my personal carbon footprint reduction efforts, that does not mean that I am uninterested in affecting change on a large scale.

In the afternoon session of today's OECD ICT conference, the behaviour change that was discussed centred around green ICT and innovation.

Green ICTs are often discussed in terms of first, second and third order. A desciption of these effects is below (courtesy of D. MacLean):
  1. first order or direct effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as a tool for monitoring and measuring climate change, assessing its effects, and controlling interactions with the environment

  2. second order or indirect effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as a medium for increasing awareness and facilitating dialogue about the effects of climate change

  3. third order or systemic effects – e.g., the use of ICTs as an enabler for “networked governance”

It was this 3rd order that Heather Creech from the International Institute for Sustainable Development focused on. Heather explained that we need to open up the decision making process at the industry and gov't level so that individuals can participate. She specifically mentioned Anne Marie Slaughter's concept of networked governance, that would allow connections to be made to solve shared problems. Heather noted however that this cannot happen without the help of ICTs.

Heather also highlighted Thomas Homer-Dixon's research on 'open architecture democracy', noting that cooperation on behalf of governments will be required to break down silos, and that to accomplish this we need a new generation of broadband.

The most useful take-away I gained was when Heather noted that behaviour change will come when we take green ICT solutions to the individual. But that for it to work, end user training is required AND the solutions have to be simple to use and integrate. Heather cited the example that the shift towards support of anti-smoking did not come from an information campaign. It came instead with the release of the nicotine patch. Green ICT solutions such as smart grids and homes need to be as simple as that.

Other presentations included Klaus Fichter with a business case for thin client and server based computing, which provided a lot of persuasive statistics and a lively discussion. I will perhaps write more about the possibilities for thin client later. Suffice to say that in certain applications and environments there appear to be significant savings. While it may not be right for every application (graphic design work was noted as a poor application for the implementation of thin client), there is still a lot of possibility for using this technology to reduce emissions. Details of Klaus' research can be found here.

The last presentation of the day came from Martin Curley from Intel.
Martin spoke about ICT Innovation for future environmental applications and provided a green IT maturity model that is being developed by the Innovation Value Institute which will assist in collectively identifying the greenest practices in green ICT. I look forward to following the development of this model.

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