This guide is a tool for any tech practitioner to explore the systemic impact of digital services. It is intended as a starting point to think critically about your work and your ability to create a positive environmental influence for the Internet.

Background[edit | edit source]

There is an ongoing change in how the tech workforce operates in relation to remote work and the gig economy, most of it accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. An increasing number of new workers entering the ICT industry hail from low-income countries. This change is happening due to many reasons: a reduction in rules regarding in-person attendance to work, less travel, but perhaps most importantly, a push to reduce workforce costs[1] being met with an offer of lower-cost services from the Global South.

Despite the impression that digital technologies are contributing to reducing the carbon emissions of industries, there is evidence to the contrary: the increased use of digital technologies for everyday activities is driving people to an increased use of these tools. There are also misconceptions about how to correctly measure the environmental impact of technology, with examples of these even within academia.[2]

The effects of climate change are somewhat difficult to grasp for all of us due to a lack of "materiality" that connects us to the digital realm and our activities online, but they are felt and suffered through direct environmental crises caused by the extraction of raw materials, an increase in the use of energy from non-renewable sources, and wasteful practices such as planned obsolescence. Furthermore, and most importantly, the impact of climate change some of the most affected persons are low-income individuals in developing countries.[3] This connects the decisions made by you as a tech worker living in the third world with the impacts you and the people you care about are closely related to.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • This guide was developed as part of the 2021-2022 Green Web Foundation Fellowship.
  • The inventory in this guide is based mostly on the research by Mulrow et al. (2021)[2] and Lèbre et al. (2020).[4]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Iyer, N. (2021, August 31). Remote work risks exploiting workers in low-income countries. Quartz Africa. https://qz.com/africa/2053741/remote-work-risks-exploiting-workers-in-low-income-countries/
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mulrow, J., Gali, M., & Grubert, E. (2021). The cyber-consciousness of environmental assessment: How environmental assessments evaluate the impacts of smart, connected, and digital technology. Environmental Research Letters, 17(1), 013001. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ac413b
  3. "Climate change affects the poorest in developing countries." (n.d.). [Text/HTML]. World Bank. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/03/03/climate-change-affects-poorest-developing-countries
  4. Lèbre, É., Stringer, M., Svobodova, K., Owen, J. R., Kemp, D., Côte, C., Arratia-Solar, A., & Valenta, R. K. (2020). The social and environmental complexities of extracting energy transition metals. Nature Communications, 11(1), 4823. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18661-9
FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Keywords internet, notes
Authors Emilio Velis
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Organizations Green Web Foundation
Language English (en)
Translations Spanish, French, French, Chinese, Spanish, Spanish, Spanish, Spanish, French, Spanish
Related 26 subpages, 31 pages link here
Aliases Carbon footprint guide for tech practitioners
Impact 790 page views
Created November 3, 2021 by Emilio Velis
Modified January 29, 2024 by Felipe Schenone
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