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In association with AMD

How tech teams are driving the sustainability agenda across the public sector

A roundtable hosted by Tech Monitor and AMD heard how IT leaders are helping their organisations meet their green goals.

Tech teams have a significant role to play in helping public sector organisations meet their sustainability objectives, guests at a Tech Monitor roundtable supported by AMD heard. However, financial restrictions and poor data quality are stopping them from being as effective as they could be in driving the net-zero agenda.

Tech teams in the public sector want to help their organisations meet sustainability targets. (Photo by Fahroni/Shutterstock)

The roundtable, entitled ‘Driving sustainability across the UK public sector: the role of technology and digital services’, took place earlier this month and was attended by a variety of tech leaders and public sector organisations, ranging from central government departments to local authorities.

Sustainability and net zero remain high on the agenda for public sector organisations, with the government having set a 2050 target to decarbonise the entire UK economy. More than 85% of local authorities now have a climate action plan in place, according to Greenpeace, with most having declared a climate emergency.

How the public sector tech teams are driving sustainability initiatives

Those present said that the Covid-19 pandemic had been a setback in terms of making IT estates more sustainable, with many agencies and councils having to buy new equipment to enable their staff to work remotely.

The upside of this has been that it enabled public sector organisations to get involved in recycling schemes, donating unwanted equipment to charities and other groups that need it.

As the pandemic has eased, IT teams are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and one to do this is to extend the life cycle of devices, the delegates said. This has the added benefit of saving money, at a time when many agencies are under pressure to reduce costs.

Across the public sector, organisations are looking to ensure they are procuring from sustainable sources, and some tech vendors, particularly the large cloud providers that run energy-intensive data centres, have become better at setting up reports and dashboards that enable customers to make responsible choices.

The delegates also commended informal networks as a way of sharing ideas about sustainable systems and tips for cutting emissions. All those present said they were keen to share examples of good practice, and had found their peers to be largely receptive to doing the same.

Formal networks exist too, and membership organisations such as the London Office of Technology and Innovation can also provide a great forum to learn about what other organisations are doing.

Barriers to sustainable IT in the public sector

While procuring sustainability is getting somewhat easier, many of the delegates said a lack of resources meant they were reliant on government frameworks for buying tech products and services, which means it isn’t always possible to have full oversight of how ‘green’ a vendor’s supply chain is.

There is also often a disconnect between procurement and tech teams, which can lead to decisions about buying not being taken with sustainability in mind.

Across the board, it was felt that local authorities and government departments often operate in silos, which has a negative impact on sustainability. A lack of good-quality data on the performance and condition of IT equipment is also a common problem, and this makes it difficult to make informed decisions.

Delegates were hopeful that increased use of AI would lead to efficiency savings, but with most not yet experimenting with the technology, it is unlikely to have a big impact on meeting sustainability targets in the near future.

Lee-Martin King, director for commercial sales at AMD, said: “Sustainability in technology continues to be a major focus in the public sector. It was great to hear on the night how the environment is one of the factors of how the public sector determines their IT decisions.”

Read more: Heat reuse could be key to making data centres truly sustainable

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