Green matters: Environmental injection for BMA

Martin Kelmanson, head of the ICTS division of the British Medical Association (BMA), is eager to lobby government on green issues, but first the association had to get its own house in order.

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The British Medical Association (BMA) was founded to support practising doctors and today has 139,000 members. The IT department is decoupled from the lobbying activities of the association.

But that doesn’t prevent Martin Kelmanson, head of the BMA's ICTS division, from having strong views about the government’s responsibility in the greening of the IT department.

Kelmanson is on the Environmental IT Leadership Team (EILT) – part of practical environmental charity Global Action Plan – and excited about its potential to lobby government.

"My personal bugbear is that VAT should be taken off external comms lines," he says. Kelmanson is geared up for an event at the House of Commons, 3 December, where Global Action Plan will launch in-depth research on the environmental awareness of the IT industry.

"It makes a great deal of sense for people to share datacentres, rather than all build their own, but the high price of external leased lines discourages this," points out Kelmanson. He’s also well aware that exempting services from VAT would make for greener businesses but would mean government coffers were not so full.

In terms of the BMA strategy, Kelmanson is clear he’d like to locate more and shared function remotely. At present the BMA has two on-site datacentres and one off-site disaster recovery facility. “The strategy I’d like to follow is to merge resilience and recovery functions and to use fewer sites.”

Closer to home in the IT department, however, there’s a lot of low fruit for IT directors, acknowledges Kelmanson. He’s happy with the eco results derived from educating BMA’s users to use less power and also pleased with the decision to implement flat screens on the desktop at the BMA three years ago.

Flat screens have paid dividends on three fronts. There’s been a substantial reduction in use of electricity to power the device. A secondary benefit is that less heat generated also means less power to cool. “Last but not least,", says Kelmanson, “you get to feel good about it”.

Turning off computers at night has had a significant impact, but it was important not to lump all users together with a blanket policy, explains Kelmanson. Some of the BMA’s users have very sophisticated workstations with 15 or 20 applications running, including some heavy-duty graphics.

Graphics cards burn a lot of energy but users were nonetheless reluctant to switch off at night because reloading every morning was painfully slow. For this constituency, programs such as Night Watchman that put devices into sleep mode are the best strategy: “They put everything to sleep except the memory, and the fan stops whirring,” says Kelmanson.

Out in the wider business, IT has also been used to achieve quick green wins for the BMA. The use of videoconferencing at the association has reduced the need for car, train and air travel by 280 hours (and rising) every week.

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