Preparing for an eco-effective IT future

Information Age Effective IT 2007 Summit  was the best attended and liveliest event in the four year history of the annual Effective IT programme. Fittingly, it was also an event dominated by discussion of what the future holds for IT, held in a location that is already one of the UK’s hotbeds of IT innovation.

Although many of the 150 leading IT practitioners that attended Effective IT 2007 may not have realised it, the green hills surrounding the Vale of Glamorgan are now the backdrop to one of the country’s most advanced IT communities.

In his keynote address, the director of e.Wales and Welsh Assembly member Michael Eaton, soon set the record straight. Wales today, said Eaton, is a country of 2.9 million people in the vanguard of the information age. Some 80% of Welsh homes receive digital TV and an above average number have broadband.

The nearby Wick telephone exchange recently saw the completion of the world’s first ever end-to-end public digital telephone link, and the University of Glamorgan is home to an Institute of Advanced Telecommunications supported by 20 different private sector partners, including industry heavy-weights like France Telecom and Orange, who are beginning to see Wales as a key source of scarce software talent. It is no wonder, said Eaton, that today “a lot of companies choose Wales as a test bed for new IT projects.”

Welsh IT literacy is not just good news for Wales, it is good for the whole of the UK. According to futurologist Rohit Talwar, IT literacy will be one of the key features that distinguish successful economies in the years ahead – particularly those economies that wish

to stay on a competitive footing with the emerging giants like India and, especially, China – a country that is already a bigger economy than the UK and a bigger IT exporter than the US.

To keep pace with such fast growing competitors, UK businesses must embrace the future with enthusiasm, warned Talwar.

Although exotic technologies such as chaos computing models that automatically adapt themselves to changing stimuli or silicon chips that connect directly to the brain might appear far fetched, or even frightening, they or something like them may be at the heart of the next great leap forward. Of course, explains Talwar, no one can be sure what this leap will this be or where it will lead, but what is certain is that “our future happens when we opt to engage with it,” says Talwar.

Until we do embrace the future we are guilty of living in the past, and that is something that no organisation can afford to do in these times of troubling climate change. Indeed, in addressing

the second major theme of this year's Summit, the consequences of global warming for business and IT, both Ovum’s principal analyst Stephen Young and Sun’s head of public policy and eco-responsibility, Richard Barrington, made one thing plain: climate change isn't happening in the future, it is happening now.

According to Young, organisations that don’t know what their carbon footprint is today will be paying richly for their ignorance tomorrow. ‘Carbon taxes’, such as the current civil aviation ‘green duty’ are bound to spread to all industries in time, and when they do, says Barrington, most business' carbon footprints will lead them to the doors of their own data centres – unless they act now.

Technologies and management policies that can reduce the environmental impact of IT already exist, it is now up to business to realise that today, and in the future, an effective IT strategy must also be an eco-friendly one.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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