This will be the year of green hogwash

The greening of IT was one of the less remarked on themes of 2007, but give it time. We’re in the early days of a movement that will rise to become one of technology’s dominant ideas.

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ITs go-green movement comes from the idea that technology should turn simple things that have been well understood for decades into a cause, cutting needless power consumption, for instance, or ensuring that the materials from which it fashions its latest products are recyclable and don’t poison the environment in their manufacture.

In other words, precisely the values that IT has considered beneath it since it since its emergence as an industry over half a century ago.

As revolutions go, this is an odd one. It started among the nay-sayers on the fringe of acceptable science some decades back, moved into the veins of the government and NGO conference circuit around 20 years ago, and then headed for the boardroom. Finally, the marketing guys heard about it, perhaps two years ago, by which time it had become serious and unavoidable.

Don’t just recycle, don’t just stop chucking heavy metals into the earth and don’t just stop wasting electricity – do all three things at once. But make sure people hear about it and are persuaded that all this green stuff isn’t basic engineering at all but somehow adds value.

The car industry reached a similar point with the oil shock of 1973, since which time it has wasted no time telling people how much more fuel efficient their latest engine design is, despite the fact that the average car in the UK does around 30-35 MPG on its urban cycle, compared to perhaps 18-25MPg for the same car thirty years ago. That’s a worthy change, but hardly a huge return for a generation of supposed high-tech improvement. Meanwhile, the industry has grown wealthy selling high-performance run-arounds and huge, inefficient 4WDs that in some cases have taken petrol burning back to the 1960s.

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