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Sustainable Data

What sustainable data means?

Sustainable data is about managing and optimizing how we handle data across its entire life cycle to reduce its environmental impact.

This encompasses everything from the design of data intensive applications to how data is stored, processed, transferred and eventually disposed of.

We aim to balance the benefits of the digital age with the critical need to protect our planet.

What are the different states of data and how each contributes to this impact?

Data can be in three states at rest, in motion, and in use. Each state consumes energy but in different ways :

  • Data at rest refers to stored and computed data whether on local servers or in the cloud and it requires continuous energy to maintain integrity availability and intensive computation.

  • Data in motion involves data being transmitted across the internet infrastructure consuming significant energy due to the sheer volume of data transferred daily.

  • Data in use refers to active data being processed by applications on the device which can also be very energy intensive.

What's wrong with current application design ?

Many applications on the market today are not optimized for data efficiency.

They often retrieve and process huge volumes of data including unnecessary metadata which not only slows down performance but also increases the energy consumed during data transfer.

Everyone has to understand that this inefficiency impacts the environment as more data in motion and in use means more energy consumption across our networks and devices such significant challenges.

What are the pillars of transforming our data practices into more sustainable ones?

The transformation relies on several pillars :

  • Firstly, optimizing the energy efficiency of data centers and networks to reduce the impact of data at rest and in motion.

  • Secondly, advancing the design of applications to minimize unnecessary data retrieval and processing. Essentially reducing the data in use.

  • Thirdly extending the life of digital devices and enhancing their energy efficiency. Addresses both embodied emissions and the energy used by devices.

On an individual level, what can people do to contribute to sustainable data practices?

Individuals can make a big difference by being more selective about the digital services they use and how they use them.

Simple actions like reducing streaming quality when full HD isn't necessary, deleting unused data and extending the lifespan of their devices can significantly reduce their digital footprint.

It's also important to support companies that are committed to sustainable practices.

What about businesses ? How can they help drive this shift towards sustainability?

Businesses need to rethink their digital infrastructure and application designs to prioritize energy efficiency and minimal data use.

They can adopt cloud solutions that utilize renewable energy and design applications that reduce data redundancies and streamline data processes, implementing best practices in data management and encouraging their industry peers to do the same can also foster wider change.

But was is really important to understand is that software companies also need to redesign their product to avoid what we are calling data waste, which at the end are data and metadata not necessary at all for end users.

What policy measures could governments implement to promote digital sustainability?

Governments can play a crucial role by setting regulatory standards for energy efficiency in digital services and devices.

Offering incentives for renewable energy use in the tech sector and enforcing strict recycling and disposal processes for electronic waste policy that promotes transparency about the environmental impact of digital services would empower organizations and consumers to make informed decisions.

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