Insights

More than 1,000 substances go into one smartphone

“There are more than 1,000 substances that go into one smartphone,” Katie Singer states. “Each of those has its energy-intense, toxic-waste-emitting supply chain. It’s an international supply chain.” Coltan is one of the 1,000 substances. “Coltan is mined mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Katie explains. “It’s actually a com... Read More »

Invisible, immaterial Internet not what it seems

Some people live their ideas. Katie Singer is one of them. She writes about the energy, extractions, toxic waste and greenhouse gases involved in manufacturing computers, telecom infrastructure, electric vehicles and other electronic technologies. “I read from Greenpeace once that the Internet is the largest thing that humanity has bui... Read More »

Sustainable digital design principles

Someone wise said that there is no system developed by humans that can’t be changed by humans. How do we change this global system whose extractivist, growth, dominance and profit obsession is speeding us to the point of extinction? What can we do if we work in the digital industry that can help in the healing of the planet? Over the l... Read More »

CO2 caused by developing a software feature

How much CO2 does creating a typical software feature cause? It’s a complex question but that doesn’t mean we can’t get some CO2 guide figures. I calculated that the use of the computers alone to create a light feature could cause about 60 kg of CO2, while a more intense, heavy-duty feature could cause 300 kg of CO2. We must make digit... Read More »

Choosing least CO2-emitting form of digital communication

The purest, lightest, least polluting form of digital communication is text. Let’s assume for a moment that a picture does indeed “paint a thousand words”. 1,000 words weighs about 6 KB and typically will take up about two A4 pages. A picture—or set of pictures—taking up the same area of layout will weigh many times more than that. So, a... Read More »

Frugal data: Heavy data is a heavy polluter

Ninety per cent of data is waste. In more than 25 years of working with some of the largest organizations in the world, this has been my consistent experience. Data management is amateur to non-existent. The philosophy of practically every organization is to collect everything – we’ll sort it out later, and anyway it’s cheap to store. ... Read More »

Designing sustainable websites

“The first thing is that very few people know about the carbon impact of the Internet!” So says Nicolas Paries, who has founded Hey Low, a design studio building low-carbon brands and websites. This is the constant, recurrent theme of digital. Its invisibility. Its seeming immaterialism. The fact that it’s “in the Cloud.” Except that t... Read More »

Moving into the future at walking pace

I have a friend who has two young children. For the last six weeks the entire family has been sick with one thing or another. They are fully vaccinated. About four months ago the entire family had COVID. By far the hardest and most stressful thing I ever did was try to be a half decent parent. I cannot say I was a huge success, but I t... Read More »

Fix the basics before you buy the new technology

Once upon a time, there was a country that wanted to attract high-value entrepreneurs to set up in its beautiful cities and rolling countryside. “How will we attract such rare, high-net-worth individuals?” the country’s planners asked. “These people are so hard to attract, their time is so incredibly scarce.” “Let’s develop an idiot ch... Read More »

Humans are the solution; technology is the problem

“There has been strikingly little research on the sociology of the pandemic, even though billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on vaccines,” Zeynep Tufekci wrote in October 2021 for The New York Times. “The assumption that some scientific breakthrough will swoop in to save the day is built too deeply into our national mythology — ... Read More »