Recap: How Green Is the Internet?

Dean C. Garfield photo

How green is the Internet?  That’s a great question.   Not coincidentally, it’s also the name of a summit meeting today at Google headquarters.  (You can watch live at

Participants make up an intriguing mix of experts from industry, academia, government and NGOs.   For our part, ITI is helping to explore emerging questions around the environmental impacts and benefits of the Internet, and the data centers that drive many of the services on which people around the world rely.

These questions are significant.  As the digital revolution evolves into the mobility revolution, with smartphone and tablet owners expecting connectivity to their services from anywhere, at anytime, all this activity and data requires 24/7 infrastructure.   This means thousands of data centers and networks of networks must be accessible and operating seamlessly.  

Clearly, this has environmental consequences – on the whole, very positive ones.  Moving greater numbers of bits instead of atoms should make future economic activity more sustainable, not less.  There are many studies that confirm this view.  However, most of these studies are dated (at least in IT time) and don’t reflect the cutting-edge technologies that are driving progress.

For instance, the last governmental study on data center energy use was published in 2007, using 2005-6 data.  In the life of IT, a six-year-old study, using data that are seven or eight years old, is archaic.  That’s one reason why ITI is supporting legislation, H.R. 540, introduced by Representatives Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Mike Rogers, R-Mich., which includes a mandate for a new U.S. Department of Energy-led update to this study.

At the summit, I’ll lead two breakouts on e-commerce.  Our goal is to identify potential impacts and benefits of the Internet in the e-commerce arena, determine key questions, and identify paths forward.  While I’ll be curious as to whether participants think we have up-to-date data to support our conversation, I’m more interested in hearing where the experts think the e-commerce sector is headed and what innovations are around the corner.  What new transformations are coming, and how can industry and government work together to ensure that they will result in future sustainability as well as growth?

Follow the event online and share your own observations.  A green Internet is going to be a central part of everyone’s future.

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  • Angela Sun., December 22, 9:32 AM
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  • Kelele Sun., December 22, 7:18 AM
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  • Qaiser Fri., December 20, 11:46 PM
    Nwelinoo, you posted ieertnsting subjects. If we have to look at prediction, prophecy, astrology and so on' in terms of Buddhism it is important to look at them as separate. Buddhism in a nutshell is to rid oneself of greed, hatred and ignorance. Baedin is something like looking one's future through a window but one has to be mindful there are many unkown factors involved. In today's term, it's like constructing a computer model'. But if one has to recount on Pattana (the teaching of anatta) there is karma pyiccayaw' and vibaga pyiccayaw' which has to be taken into account. The Buddha said, What you are is what you have been; what you will be is what you do now. Karma does not decay like external things, or even become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed by time, fire or water'. Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened. Was this answer helpful?
  • Umer Fri., December 20, 8:53 AM
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  • Laszlo Thu., December 19, 7:17 AM
    ဒ ကဗ လ သတ ရသ တယ Robert Frost (1874 1963). Mountain Interval. 1920. 1. The Road Not Taken TWO roads diverged in a yoellw wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
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