The Internet: Friend, Foe or Both? Raiders of the Sustainable Digitisation

Sustainable Digitisation

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27 Jul, 2021


The New Raiders of the Sustainable Digitisation

Since the rise of the Internet, it is undeniable that it has now become a foundational pillar for the functioning of society and our individual lives. But how much do we actually engage with the internet rather than just interact with it?.

Though it might seem a silly question to ask, especially after living with this thing for about 30 years since the .Com boom in the 1990’s, but how much do we really know about the internet?

What is it?

The Internet, and the industry it operates within is the Information, Communications and Technology (‘ICT’) industry. This umbrella term encompasses everything required to make internet work:

  • The Internet Protocol (the language of the internet);
  • Data centres (server warehouses and storage centres);
  • ICT Infrastructure (the servers themselves, cooling towers, cables to transmit electricity to the data centres, cables – for landline based equipment and network nodes, ICT suppliers (every company on Earth) and end-point users, our own personal devices, to name a few.

With the many advances of the ICT industry and its rapid diffusion around the world, it is estimated that there are currently around 7 billion users of wireless devices employing internet technology.

That is over 90% of the total global population are online.

Benefits of this connectivity are significant.

Connectivity and communication

Communications can be sent to anyone anywhere in the world and a response received in seconds. This aids not only our socialization but the ability to maintain relationships without too much hindrance from distance and geography.

Commerce and economy

Hyper-speed connectivity also aids with our work and commerce as a whole. Teams can communicate with each other remotely, global trade functions by a simple click and the general ability for businesses and individuals to generate income is heightened.

Information and knowledge

Ability to find out any piece of information we could want online is so effective that we now have to deal with the excess of this opportunity; information overload and disinformation.

Anyone can obtain an education or learn utilizing the internet and open-source information without being affronted with as many obstacles as there once was i.e. location, living near an educational institution, money to access an education etc.

Democracy and development

As a result of all this, there has been an expansion of global democracy, accountability, transparency, the ability express an opinion, organize masses for social movements and to critique questionable behaviours of corporate, State and individual actors.

These are pre-requisites of democracy and is demonstrated, in real-time, in developing countries whom are starting to systemize individual’s access to internet and thus, raising populations out of poverty.

… And so much more…

Then there’s, literally, everything else – paying bills, entertainment, banking, navigation and so forth.

Fantastic! So then, what’s the problem?

Well, it takes energy and electricity to keep the internet train on the tracks, a lot of energy and electricity.

Every single thing done on the internet requires creation of an energetic output; every browser search, every photo upload, every email sent and received, every page browsed, even the maintenance of your Wi-Fi connection to let you do all those other things.

All of this, essentially, is data being transmitted. This leads us to data centres – the brains of this whole operation.

Warehouses bigger than aircraft carriers are built and expanded daily to house thousands of circuit boards, servers and towers required to compute, store and process all this data being transmitted and this is done in data centres.

Although these data centres don’t emit black smoke out of chimneys or toxic radiation, they still have an environmental impact which is only like to increase with expected rises in global ICT demand, energy expansion and usage.

What’s more, is that these data centres are online and active 24/7; we humans may sleep, but the internet does not (nor do our expectations for it!).

It’s reported that the ICT industry accounts for approximately 2% of global carbon emissions, which is equivalent to that of the entire aviation industry, placing it at number 6 in terms of the world’s largest polluter.

Some predictions also estimate that this carbon footprint is likely to rise fifteen fold by 2030 with global data demand increasing.

The heavy hitters, Microsoft, emitted about 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gas in2020 and Amazon, 44 million tonnes according to Greenpeace.

With cryptocurrencies use now being normalised, the need for computers to ‘mine’ these virtual coins and validate the blockchain are growing rapidly. A PwC audit into Bitcoin’s, alone, electricity consumption estimated it would be up to 0.33% of global electricity use.

The ICT industry however, has proved itself to be one of the most adaptable when it comes to sustainable practice with many ICT reliant firms committing to carbon neutrality.

Hyper-Scale Data Centres

Hyper-scale data centres are now replacing traditional data centres to assist with efficiency and sustainability. Rapid improvements from such upgrades ensures energy efficiency and consumption of far less energy needed to cool equipment.

It’s expected that hyperscale data centres will double from figures recorded in 2015 by 2021 to 628, and their share of all data centre traffic too will rise from 34% to 55%.

Constructions of these hyperscale models in places where environmental conditions are naturally cooler, will lower electricity consumption costs and so too will placement in continents and nations where renewable energy is the main energy source.

Although the ICT industry itself is responsible for the methods in which they deliver their services to us, we, as the end point users, can do many things to encourage sustainable practices by the sector.

To ensure our demands on data doesn’t encroach on our environmental sustainable responsibility, consider the following:

  • Use certain platforms to check how much renewable energy is powering an ICT company’s, that you engage with, data centre infrastructure;
  • Clean your inbox! Deleting unnecessary emails can reduce your own individual data transmission during each session;
  • Don’t leave unnecessary programs or windows running in the background during a session and try to actually turn off your personal electronic devices when not in use to lessen your data transmissions; and
  • Recycle your personal electronic devices when upgrading or replacing – all that hardware is energy hungry to produce and should be re-used where possible.


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  1. Eric

    I just deleted over 1000 emails that were totally unnecessary. Invitations to google meeting etc … Thanks for the advise !

  2. Alessia

    I love the point on cleaning the inbox – as a minimalist, I always strive to keep it clean and organized and now I have another reason for keeping it this way. I might like an article on minimalism and its link to sustainability, would be interesting to read!

    • Komoneed

      That’s cool! From our side we have certain simple rules…
      – Few subscriptions -only the necessary
      – Answer mails during the next 8 hours of having been received
      – Avoid non specific mails -e.g.: if anybody ask “who’s not going to the party” we never reply saying “we go!” -specially, with Whatsapp messages

  3. Janette

    The internet has enabled us to do so much more of course, but the mindless use of internet causes so much harm…

  4. Mylo

    Article: The Internet: Friend, Foe or Both?
    Opinion: The Internet is like a double-edged sword, it can slice boredom but also productivity.

    Explanation: While the internet has undoubtedly revolutionized our lives, it can be both a source of endless information and a major distraction. On one hand, it allows us to stay connected and communicate with people from all over the world. On the other hand, it can consume our time and hinder our productivity. Its essential to find a balance and make the internet our friend rather than a foe.

  5. Isabela Combs

    I personally think the internet is like that one friend whos always a mix of friend and foe. One minute its helping you connect with people all over the world, and the next its driving you crazy with all its distractions. Its a love-hate relationship, my friends! 🌐💔

    • Kye

      I couldnt agree more! The internet is a double-edged sword, constantly pulling us in different directions. Its a love-hate affair indeed, but we cant deny its impact on our lives. Embrace the chaos and enjoy the ride! 🌐🤪

  6. Phoebe Hartman

    Comment: Who needs real friends when you can have virtual ones, right? But remember, memes wont be there for you during tough times, and cat videos wont offer genuine human connection. The internet is a tool, not a substitute for real relationships.

  7. Aurelia

    OMG, the internet is like that crazy friend who always has your back, but also spills your secrets! 🙃

  8. Chase

    Sure, the internet is great for connectivity and knowledge, but what about privacy and addiction? 🤔

  9. Ana

    I think the internet is like a big party – its got both friends and foes. 🎉💻#InternetDebate

    • Emily

      I couldnt agree more! The internet is indeed a massive party, but lets not forget that its also a breeding ground for trolls and cyberbullies. We need to be cautious and navigate this virtual world with care. #StaySafeOnline

  10. Truett

    Sure, the internet is great for communication and knowledge, but what about privacy invasion and fake news?

    • Ibrahim Barker

      Privacy invasion and fake news are valid concerns, but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of blaming the internet, lets focus on holding individuals and platforms accountable. Its about time we take responsibility for our actions and demand better standards.

  11. Kennedy

    I totally get what you mean! The internet is a wild ride, but its up to us to navigate through the chaos. Stay skeptical, fact-check, and use it wisely. Its not perfect, but its definitely a powerful tool for both good and bad. #InternetResponsibility

  12. Maria

    Hey guys, after reading the article, I gotta say the internet is like a wild rollercoaster ride! 🎢 Its a friend when it connects us and helps us learn, but can be a foe when it distracts us with cat videos and online shopping 🙈. So, I guess its both? 🤷‍♂️ What do you think?

    • Xander

      I totally get what you mean! The internet is a double-edged sword – it can be a fantastic tool for connecting and learning, but its so easy to get sucked into the black hole of distractions. Its all about finding that balance, right? 🙌🏼

  13. Eliza

    Hey guys, after reading the article, Im torn: is the internet a friend or foe? 🤔 #conflicted

  14. Cohen

    Comment: Honestly, the internet is like a box of chocolates – you never know what youre gonna get! 🍫 Its a love-hate relationship!

    • Hayley

      Well, if you cant handle the unpredictability of the internet, maybe you should stick to something more vanilla. The rest of us enjoy the thrill of the unknown. Embrace the chaos or get out of the digital kitchen. 🤷‍♂️

  15. Shelby Davila

    The Internet is like a pizza: sometimes its delicious, other times it gives you heartburn.

    • Lux

      I couldnt agree more! The Internet is like a greasy, overpriced pizza that leaves you feeling regretful and unsatisfied. Its a never-ending cycle of disappointment and wasted time. But hey, we keep coming back for more, dont we?

  16. Arjun Kline

    Article: The Internet: Friend, Foe or Both?

    Comment: Hey guys, so after reading this article, I gotta say, the internet is like that one friend who is both a blessing and a curse. 🤷‍♀️

    • Moshe

      Totally agree! The internet can be a double-edged sword. It opens up a world of knowledge and connection, but also breeds addiction and misinformation. We gotta navigate it wisely, or itll suck us in! 🌐💥

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