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Sustainability and digital transformation: opportunities and challenges

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Image credit: Paul Goodwin

John Seglias, Defra group Chief Digital and Information Officer, reflects on the Greening Government ICT 2018 annual report (published on 29 January 2019).

As the lead department for sustainability in information and communication technologies (ICT) across government, Defra produces the annual Greening Government ICT report. This captures the progress that government departments are making towards sustainability in our digital services and technologies.

Within government, we recognise the significant impact that our approach in this area can have on the environment, and our future commitments are captured in the recently updated Greening Government Sustainable Technology Strategy to 2020.

John Seglias
John Seglias, Defra group Chief Digital and Information Officer

So how are we doing? In 2017/2018, departments continued their journey towards using more sustainable digital services, technologies and practices. I’m pleased to say that across government we delivered a huge reduction in the individual energy footprint of employees working on our government estate (average footprint of 891kWh/staff compared to the baseline figure of 1467 kWh/staff).

However, the report also highlights the challenges, showing that as departments move to greener digital services, the impact of legacy systems (and practices) should not be overlooked.

A good example is waste: replacing legacy ICT with more sustainable options means that redundant technology removed from government estates was over one million kilograms. The better news is that almost 98% was donated, reused or recycled, with many departments recording zero to landfill.

Another example is the role our people play. Across government we continue to provide new technologies which give employees more options for when and how they work, offering environmental sustainability benefits alongside potential cost and time savings.

However the report shows that we need to do more to support them to make the most of what these new technologies can offer (like choosing less familiar alternatives to travel).

Above all, what the report underlines is the importance of government departments measuring their progress, especially in a time of increased government activities such as preparing to leave the EU.

By reporting on those areas that have proved challenging to deliver, we also take ownership of our performance and the solutions.

I’d like to thank all the departments who engaged so enthusiastically in this process, not only tracking and reporting on progress but advocating and implementing sustainable ICT solutions.

I look forward to presenting progress next year as we continue to provide sustainable technology for sustainable government.

Read the Greening Government ICT 2018 annual report

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