ICT can help us manage our invisible resources

Zurich, 14 March 2013 The meeting report of the sustainable lifestyles workshop was published today. Main conclusions are that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can help provide feedback to consumers about the sustainability impacts of their behaviour and help them to improve, or “manage invisible resources” as one of the speakers said.

It was also concluded that ICT standardising is important. There is hassle, be it for mobile phone chargers, or for industry wide software, when they are incompatible with one another.

Policy makers were said to be often ignorant of the benefits brought on by ICT and so they feel no need to adopt them. The ultimate goal would be for policy-makers to lead by example and create policies conducive to the deployment of innovative ICT solutions for sustainable lifestyles.

Download the full meeting report here.

The “ICT solutions for a sustainable lifestyle” workshop was held in Zurich, 13 February 2013, and brought together over 60 participants. Organisers were the World Resources Forum (WRF), Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), Hewlett Packard (HP), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The meeting was sponsored by Swisscom. The workshop was moderated by WRF Managing Director, Bas de Leeuw.

Professor Heinz Gutscher (Emeritus Professor Social Psychology, University of Zurich) used the example of the urinal fly – a fly imprinted onto male’s urinals offering a target board of sorts – to demonstrate the idea of smart nudging. While aiming at the fly, you do not realize the amount of effort being exerted on you to decrease spillage and keep toilets cleaner. One of the most effective tools, he said, is having smart default options. Rarely do people want to change a default option when presented with one.

According to professor Skip Laitner (American Council for Energy Efficient Economy) it is necessary to implement intelligent efficiency. This includes more people centered initiatives such as real time feedback on personal energy use. Digital energy management would also aid in increasing efficiency. Such energy saving ICT methods could be incorporated into infrastructure allowing us to function efficiently without having to try actively to do so. “Turning invisible resources visible would help alter people’s behaviours and perception.”

Flavio Cucchietti (ITU Study Group) said that there is too much time, energy and resources wasted on differentiating electronic products when instead they can be standardized for efficiency. A simple relatable example would be the mobile phone. Too often do we run out of batteries only to find that the nearest charger available is incompatible with your mobile phone. 

Alice Valvodova (GeSI) introduced the key findings of GeSI’s SMARTer 2020 report. The report demonstrated how increased use of ICT in video conferencing and smart building management could cut projected 2020 global GHG emissions by 16.5%, amounting to 1.9 trillion USD in gross energy and fuel savings.

An industry panel with representatives from HP, Swisscom, Microsoft and Nokia – Sybille Rock, Fabien Etter, Dan Williams, and Ulrike Vott – showcased initiatives undertaken by each company in using ICT to promote sustainability.

The final session involved the audience splitting into six groups, each representing a consumption and production cluster: Housing and Transportation, Agriculture, Cloud Computing, e-Behaviour Change, Education and Energy. They engaged in a creative envisioning process to identify the potential usage of ICT in each of these sectors in the year 2020.

The organisers have announced that a follow-up workshop will be considered, to be held during the upcoming World Resources Forum, Davos, 6-9 October 2013.

Feel free to download the full meeting report here.

Photos of the event, made by Bernard Huber, can be seen in the photo gallery

The artists Reinhard Kuchenmüller and Dr. Marianne Stifel made stunning drawings, illustrating the main themes of the workshop in an artistic way, see here their visual protocols. And check out their website.

For information about the workshop and/or to provide ideas for follow up please write to workshop coordinator Veronika Rekasi at veronika.rekasi@worldresourcesforum.org or info@worldresourcesforum.org