Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010 - 2015

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2010

Section 4. ICT: Promoting more sustainable solutions

4.1 Within government operations

Whilst ICT has adverse impacts on the environment, it can also be a powerful enabler of improved environmental performance within government agency operations. Transformational change leading to significant rather than marginal improvement is unlikely to be achieved unless a whole-organisation approach covering both ICT and non-ICT operations is adopted.

Some examples of ICT enabling improved environmental performance in government operations include flexible work practices and teleworking, e-learning, remote collaboration and video conferencing, which all have the potential to significantly reduce energy and associated carbon emissions in the transport sector. There is also evidence to suggest that agencies that use electronic records management systems consume significantly less paper per person than agencies without these systems.38 Similarly, the use of follow-me print technologies can further reduce paper and energy consumption and carbon emissions.39

Over 70 per cent of the Australian Government's energy consumption is on buildings (excluding Defence operations).40 Commercial buildings contain building management systems (BMS) to automatically monitor and control building services. These services include heating, air conditioning, ventilation, boilers and lighting. There is evidence to suggest that agencies can derive up to 25 per cent in energy savings using BMS software systems compared to non-BMS systems.41

Government 2.0 is an Australian Government initiative that makes government information more accessible and useable, and promotes online collaboration across agencies. The technology also provides an online medium for citizens and other stakeholders to interact and collaborate with government and with each other in order to stimulate discussion around policy planning and design. Agencies receive rapid feedback assisting with improvements to government services and programs.42 Government 2.0 is designed to lower costs and produce more efficient communications, and the technology can also lead to better social outcomes and reduce environmental impacts within government operations and the broader community.

There are other opportunities for agencies to improve sustainability through the effective use of ICT. To facilitate these opportunities, online information and better practice case studies will be developed and issued indicating where ICT can be used as an enabler of sustainability in government operations.

ACTION: Agencies are required to actively pursue the use of ICT to improve environmental performance within government operations.

ACTION: Online information and better practice case studies will be developed and issued indicating where ICT can be used as an enabler of sustainability in government operations.

4.2 Promotion of broader sustainability

In addition to improving the environmental performance of Australian Government ICT operations, ICT can also be a major facilitator of more sustainable practices in the Australian community. At one level ICT can be used to assist in identifying the complex and integrated connections between the various economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. In the environment sphere, ICT has been estimated to enable carbon emission reductions at a global level of up to 15 per cent in other industry sectors.43 Similar reductions should be possible in the Australian context.

Considerable economic, social and environmental benefits can be derived from the effective use of ICT in the delivery of government programs and services. The proposed investment by the Australian Government in a national broadband network will provide significant opportunity for governments, industries and communities to innovate and introduce enabling technologies to assist in achieving long term sustainability goals.

Some examples of how ICT technologies can be used to produce wider sustainability benefits include e-Government and Web 2.0 for online business transactions and communication, smart energy grids, smarter traffic control systems, health service delivery to remote areas, land and crop monitoring systems, citizen-focused information exchange, and digital education initiatives.44 The use of ICT through these initiatives will have long term intergenerational sustainability benefits and help to transform various industries into low carbon sectors of the economy.

These initiatives and resulting benefits can foster further investment and innovation, and open new profitable markets and trade.

ACTION: Agencies are required to pursue the use of ICT in the delivery of government programs and services to achieve more sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes.

38 ANAO, Audit Report No 25 2008-09, Green Office Procurement and Sustainable Office Management. p58

39 Green ICT Quick Wins, www.finance.gov.au/e-government/strategy-and-governance/sustainable-ict/quick-wins.html 

40 Energy Use in the Australian Government's Operations 2007-08, Table 2

41 Adapted from Good Practice Case Study: BMS Linked Heating Controls and Gas Conversion, at the University of Ulster, Belfast Campus www.dfpni.gov.uk/good_practice_case_study_no.4.pdf 

42 Adapted from Towards Government 2.0: an Issues Paper  http://gov2.net.au/files/2009/07/Towards-Government-2.0-An-Issues-Paper.pdf 

43 Smart 2020:  Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age, The Climate Group and GeSI (2008), www.theclimategroup.org/publications/2008/6/19/smart2020-enabling-the-low-carbon-economy-in-the-information-age/ 

44 Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Australia's Digital Economy: Future Directions, 2009 www.dbcde.gov.au/digital_economy/future_directions_of_the_digital_economy/australias_digital_economy_future_directions