Greening the cloud for public service

Sustainability has to be at the heart of the next phase of cloud adoption


While there has rightly been a great deal of focus on education as the means to improve social mobility, employers also have their part to play. Cloud technology has been

transformative. For many public sector organisations, it has pro- vided the flexibility and scalabil- ity to help tackle uncertainty and unplanned demand, as well as providing opportunities to accel- erate new ideas. It has driven the modernisation and cost reduction of services and, as a consequence, the business case debate has been won. Looking back, it is difficult

to imagine what life would have been like during the worst of the pandemic if wasn’t for cloud technology – no access to services, no virtual meetings, no online teaching, no telemedicine, no instant access to regionalised Covid-19 information. Te pandemic, moreover, has

made people more aware of the role of government in their lives. Tis hyper-focus on public service now offers a window of opportunity to deploy cloud technology more extensively to help meet the demand for new, more responsive and personalised citizen experiences.

These personalised digital services will demand the creation of more data, requiring more processing power and ultimately consume more energy. So, if we are to mitigate this risk, it’s vital

that sustainability is baked into the cloud, right from design through to implementation. ‘Greening’ the cloud in this

way means focusing on an environmentally-friendly opera- tion alongside the use of cloud services proactively to lower carbon emissions and unlocking new responsible applications of cloud technology. It starts with choosing the right

cloud partners – those with clear plans to reduce their own carbon footprint – and the design of soft- ware. Increasing the accuracy of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) cal- culation by just two per cent can, in some circumstances, result in a seven-fold jump in energy consumption, so these trade-offs need to be considered. Ten, it is about purpose. For

instance, technology can support the development of the circular economy by designing out waste

16 | FUTURESCOT | WINTER 2020/21

and pollution from the supply chain. Banyan Nation is an award- winning example of this. It is India’s first vertically integrated plastic recycling company, which employs mobile and cloud-based technology platforms to recycle plastic that can be used for the packaging of new products.

In terms of reducing carbon footprint, Scotland has its own pioneering initiative in NHS Near Me. Tis is a secure video consul- tation platform used extensively during the pandemic for doctors to ‘see’ their patients and has been estimated to have eliminated more than 14 million miles of travel and hence reduced CO2 emissions. In research launched last

month, Accenture found that greening cloud services could lead to a global reduction of 59 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

Tis represents a 5.9 per cent reduction of total IT emissions, or the equivalent of taking 22 mil- lion cars off the road. If that was phase one of cloud

adoption – as its implementation and uses continue to multiply – the next phase must have sustain- ability at its heart. So as digital public services

become ubiquitous, we need to consider the environmental impact. As scrutiny and citizen expectations in this space are only going to increase, it is not just the right thing, it is also the smart thing to do. l

John Baxter, Managing Director, Accenture Scotland com

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