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IGF 2017 - Day 1 - Room XI - WS17 Shaping a Greener Digital Environment for All

 

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 December 2017. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> EMILY TAYLOR: Good morning, everybody.  We're going to get started.

I know there are quite long lines of people trying to get through security because it is the first morning of the IGF this morning.  Of course, it is snowing  -- immediate panic!  It may be that some people come in during our discussions, and we'll all be relaxed about that.

Welcome, everybody, to workshop 17, which is entitled Shaping a Greener Digital Environment for All.  I hope this is the session you intended to come to, this is room 11 and coorganized by EURid, the .eu Registry, and Oxford Information labs.

 

My name is Emily Taylor, I'm CEO of Oxford Information Labs, an associate fellow at Chatham House a think tank in London and Editor of their Journal of Cyber policy. 

 

We have a really wonderful set of speakers here.  Really this is a format of a roundtable.  Everybody is invited to and welcome to participate in the discussions.  If you would like to take the floor, please just try to catch my eye or raise your hand. I'll keep a list and probably point to you if I don't know your name and apologies for the rudeness, but that's how we will do things.

One more slight housekeeping thing, we're extremely fortunate to have here Pearse O’Donohue from the European Commission. He has another engagement, he'll have to leave, that's completely expected, and everyone is totally happy with this.

One of ‑‑ our objective today is to really frame our discussions around four questions:  First, sets the scene about what is environmental impact of all of these technologies we love to use and are embedded in our lives and societies now.

Then we'll think about how businesses, governments, Civil Society, what they're doing to reduce carbon footprint associated with the technologies, we'll be hearing some good practices from our speakers there.

Then we will think about what are the environmental risks if insufficient actions are taken.

Finally, in the practical, action‑based way we'll think about what we all need to do to change things and to make things more better, what concrete actions need to be taken.

With that, I have great pleasure in introducing --  addressing the first question on setting the scene, we have the two wonderful speakers, Mr Pearse O’Donohue who is the Acting Director for Future Networks at DG Connect at the European Commission, he's responsible for policy development in aspects of the digital single market, including Internet of Things, Cloud, so on. He previously has been deputy head of cabinet, vice President Neelie Kroes and many other roles within the Commission.

Then we'll hear from Dr. Sarah Roberts, assistant professor in the department for information studies at UCLA, Los Angeles in the United States.  Prior to that, she was at Western University and completed her doctoral studies at the University of Illinois.

Pearse, Could I ask you to set the scene and let us know also about the regulatory frameworks that are in place?

Thank you.

PEARSE O’DONOHUE >> Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody

I apologize in advance, it is not that I'm important, it’s that somebody else important is here, it is a sign of how important the IGF is to the European Commission, my Commissioner Mariya Gabriel is here today and tomorrow and there are a lot of meetings and I have to be there with her with some of the meetings.  It allows me to say some pretty ignorant things and leave the room so the experts will really speak.

Perhaps I would like to do some talking about the regulatory frameworks and give an example of the dilemma we're faced with.  In the work that we do, in the European Commission, we have a mandate to actively promote the use and take up of digital technologies and services across all elements of society and all sectors because of the improvements in well‑being, economic and social developments that they can give and share.  That is a very clear mandate that we have without apology.  It is not a pro-business mandate but a pro society, pro economy mandate.  The flip side of that, we have a mandate with regard to the environment, with regard to Sustainable Development and that's exactly I think why it is so welcome that you’re having this roundtable. 

In our regulatory frameworks, our environment policy, attempt to reduce waste, to reduce targets and then, in some cases obligations with regards to energy efficiency, to the use of sustainable resources, they have been relatively evident, but what hasn’t been so evident is how we have mainstreamed those issues into our technological development policies.

Some of the things we have been working on, and we have to be careful now, about talking about regulatory frameworks, because we don't have a lot of rules. We have a lot of work we start up-stream, in actually helping to fund public research, the research from independent organizations who develop the technology or in some cases, the standards to actually ensure that the hardware, first of all, including what seems to be now relatively disposable consumer hardware is actually more sustainable, that there is a clear recycling path, but more importantly, it’s the materials that go in the products and the production techniques themselves. But even that quite rightly has led us to be criticized because we have not focused on what could at the end of the day be considered to be a massive drain on the environment, which is perhaps the leaking boat at the moment and that is the use of ‑‑ what happens when all these technologies we're promoting actually get and then over used.  In terms of any of us using any of the devices that are in front of us this minute ‑‑ it is very hard actually for the average consumer or even the average bureaucrat, such as myself, to actually understand in transactional terms what does that actually mean every time I do a Google search or every time I do something more detailed?  Someone working in industry, who is actually doing some computational analysis from a worksite, and that's going back to a data centre, what exactly is the impact? And I know that there are experts here who are much better able to say that. That’s where we have started to work with experts, the people who know, including in funding research to actually work out better ways particularly in the design of networks.

The Cloud, which is something which I work on a lot on in terms of Cloud computing, we really need to ensure that we push what the technology is already allowing us to do, which is a thing called ‘going to the edge’. So, edge computing is a thing that means you have much less literally messaging and transactions for one computational analysis to be done.  There are very simple things which if you look at what the industry actually does for itself for its own cost reasons: audiovisual services, at the caching of the most popular video of the day, the most popular Netflix series, if you cache that in a server close to where the consumers are, then you have much less two-way transactions when 10, 15, 100 different consumers seek to download or stream that particular item.

Moving to the edge, using fog computing, is a way of getting away from highly centralized, highly power hungry, resource hungry data centres.  At the same time, behind every silver lining there may be another cloud.  So, we still have to work out actually is that the most efficient way of doing it? and should we not perhaps be going to another direction and pushing the industry to put more intelligence back into the device so that there is less transactions in terms of messaging and data downloads and uploads.

When we come in talking about regulatory frameworks, certainly in the European Union, we have not sought to address this in terms of rules, of mandatory regulations. Increasingly we are going to have to do it in the standardisation field. So, just as we are busy on cybersecurity standards, the real challenge to us would be that we also have to talk about standards with regard to the power consumption and the environmental friendliness.  This is ‑‑ this is one of the challenges that we have.

The last point I'll make, is that, of course, we have a role and responsibility given the way that we're structured to actually serve as a relay of information to give greater awareness to people, to make it easier for the individual or the small business who are also vitally important in this and to make the right decisions to be informed.  That's also from a regulatory point of view, a reasonable and relatively light-handed way to put obligations on everybody in the life-cycle of product, of the service, everybody in industry in other words, to put obligations on them which, particularly if they work together, would actually be nice in terms of costs and regulatory burden but could also have significant benefits in educating and improving the system so that we do come to a situation where it then becomes a market identifier, it’s not just something we talk about, but labelling and recognition by business purchasers of services and consumers that actually pushes the system to become virtuous in terms of its environmental footprint and the way that we deal with waste.  So, thank you.  Those are my few thoughts.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.

If I could ask a follow‑up question in thinking about the way that the Commission is approaching areas like privacy or security, trying to embed it in the development process, are you thinking about making sort of similar type of moves in ‘environmental by design’, as well as privacy by design or security by design, do you think that that could be a possible way through. I’m sort of jumping to the end in a way, as I know that your time is limited here today?  I just wanted to hear some thoughts ‑‑ I'm not asking for firm commitments, but just floating ideas.

>> PEARSE O’DONOHUE.  No of course, and its’ a fair question. How do we think of these things? The truth is that no we are not actively considering such a move. If we were to do so, it would take an awful lot more preparation and the work in terms of how we would do it, and what would be the impact.

In the research that we're supporting and actually funding, this has now become a core component of some of the work programs that we actually roll out and we ask the academic, and the independent research institutes to actually address in the research programs that they fund, or that we co-fund.  Of course, we're already working in a number of areas on industry best practice, and on industry codes of conduct. That's something which did work at the beginning of what's our environmental regulatory policy and, therefore, we think when we mainstream those considerations into IT, it’s something that would work for us.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: A very, very quick one which is something that I would like all of the panel to think about, or to address if you can.  What sort of level of awareness do you think there is amongst the public that these things here, that our activity online has any environmental impact whatsoever.

Sorry, Sarah!

>>PEARSE O’DONOHUE I'm going to stop talking because I would love to hear Sarah and others talking about that, because I have a lot to learn. And that's the answer, is that the level of awareness  we have realized is very, very low and in fact, there is even misinformation which I think as a consumer I also suffered from, which is that I felt I was doing something good by putting everything online and going on the systems and not realizing the footprint it had and what's worrying for us, is that as we push industry, particularly small companies, they're not ‑‑ they don't have the resources to be constantly monitoring this, so they have the take off-the-shelf solutions that are provided and they're not aware either of the impact which it has.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much. Sorry to bombard you with questions, and also to pre-empt Sarah’s talk.

With that, I'll move straight to our next speaker, I'm incredibly excited to have Sarah Roberts, Dr. Sarah Roberts with us today from the University of Los Angeles in California.  Sarah and I have been in correspondence over many issues for a number of years and actually this is the first time we have met in real life.

Sarah, please, look forward to hearing from you and then obviously if we have any questions.  And Sebastien, sorry I forgot to introduce our remote moderator today, Sebastien Pensis.  Let me know if there are questions coming through from the remote participants, and welcome to the remote participants as well.  Sarah, the floor is yours.

>> SARAH ROBERTS: Thank you so much.  It is a pleasure to be here.

My first time at IGF.  I have to say that my participation here on this particular roundtable is as much for me to also learn as it is to share a bit about some of the thinking and concerns that are happening in the academic world around the issue of environmental impact of digitalization.  I'm indebted to a number of colleagues in this area who are working at the vanguard ‑‑ I would like to just acknowledge them, including Dr. Mel Hogan of the University of Calgary, who is an environmental community professor, and does a great deal of work. I have consulted with her before coming today to make sure I had the facts straight. 

I wanted to talk a little bit about a tendency within academic research around the Internet of the past few years to do what I would describe as unveiling the Internet's materiality.  This a tendency, a shift, a concentration of research that I think would prove very valuable to the discussions.  It really is a function of working at the level of metaphor. So, so much of what we talk about when thinking about the Internet, the Cloud for instance, I mean, it is just a metaphor, it is a representation and, of course, that representation is intended to do a number of things, at least it certainly has certain consequences such as suggest materiality, a light footprint, location in actually the stratosphere perhaps. When in fact, research by many of the people that I am tacitly referencing today has gone to show that there are incredible terrestrial consequences and implications of our vast push globally to digitalization, to include things like massive networks of undersea cables, the production and dismantling or destruction of devices, of hardware that goes on globally on a global circuit. 

The questioning of these pervasive metaphors like the Cloud, to show my own age a little bit, I think about back when we talked about Ethernet, which if you remember Ethernet, was a cable, very much not ethereal in any capacity. The Cloud, of course, is another word for data centres that are vast and located around the globe in the United States, more and more around the world and in the north pole, for example, and elsewhere. 

So, I just thought it might be helpful, it was helpful to me anyway, to situate today's discussions with some easy to grasp facts that really crystallized the issues for me.  I would just like to share those briefly.  Again, I'm indebted to Dr. Hogan for much of this information.  One Facebook data centre uses as much energy as a U.S. town of 25,000 people, that's just one, there are many more than one Facebook data centres around the world.

Here’s one that speaks to something you mentioned, which is that a few Google searches uses the energy equivalent to that needed to cook an egg.  I was looking last night, preparing my remarks and of course I’m jet lagged and everything, so I was up late and I dialed up a statistic site.  It was after midnight and there had been 180 million Google searches conducted.  In fact, there are 3.5 billion conducted per day.  That's a lot of cooking of eggs that we could be doing.

Global data centres in toto use 3% of the world's total electricity last year which is nearly 40% more than the entirety of the United Kingdom.  Consumption for the data centres is expected to double in the next four years. 

Of course, that's just the electricity piece, these centres and facilities are highly‑resource dependent in other ways and I'm thinking here again of work by Mel Hogan and Tamara Shepherd, thinking about the amount of water needed for cooling that circulates through data centres located in the American desert of Utah, a highly water‑restricted part of the country and world.  Of course, vast amounts of geographic space are needed for our ‘spaceless’ storage facilities in the Cloud. 

I think your point, just to go back to the notion that many consumers are totally unaware of this impact, it is so very true.  We're in a rarefied space, of course, today talking among a people who have expertise, but I know even in my own family, my mother repeatedly asks me and I'm gearing up for it again when I return to the United States for the holidays, what is the Cloud?  What is the Cloud?  She asks fist shaking because she can't get her head around it.  If I share this with her, I'm not sure that would elucidate the matter for her at all. 

The final thing that I want to tie my remarks to, and then I’ll cede, is to say that my own research focuses on labour practices in the digital realm.  Specifically, on a practice I call ‘commercial content moderation’ which is the work that typically third‑party intermediaries are located around the world do on behalf of major social media firms to adjudicate, review, possibly delete and make decisions about what content should stand and what should be removed from the social media networks.

The reason I bring up this practice, it is not simply because it is the thing I know way more about than what I'm talking about this morning, although that certainly is true, but to note that as I have followed the evolution of this labour and the growth over the last 8 years I have followed a trajectory of labour being outsourced from its points of origin and expected points of destination all over the globe. And that comes at all kinds of costs that I just described because it circulates on the very networks and is relying on the very infrastructural systems that I hope I gave you a sense of in my sort of fast facts portion of the talk.

It is important to mention this because these labour costs, what I argue are labour costs are often rendered totally invisible or inaccessible if anyone were to calculate the true cost of labour outsourcing because of course we know that the labour circulates globally in search of the cheapest labour possible. Which means that in the cases that I study, it is often leaving the United States for places like the Philippines, for India, for Poland, for other places around the world where labour can be had much more cheaply and yet I would argue that a full cost analysis has not really been undertaken if we neglect the environmental impact of the outsourcing of that labour.

The last ‑‑ I guess the last thing I will do is draw a metaphor of my own, if you will indulge me, which is to talk about the fact that as I have watched these circuits of labour on one hand I was startled and on the other I guess I was not surprised to note, that the trajectories are following very well-worn and old circuits of global commerce and circulation that go back to, of course, colonial powers and domination.

So, when we see the effects of labour going from the United States to the Philippines, it is not by happenstance it goes there but because of these longstanding colonial and economic relationships between the United States and the Philippines that I would claim have often favoured the United States over the Philippines, in that relationship. 

At the same time, as this what I would call digital detritus, as it makes its way to these parts of the world, we see barges of garbage traveling the same circuits, the same routes going to the ports. Just a couple of years ago, a Vancouver company that claimed to be in the business of recycling sent massive ships, loads of medical waste, adult diapers, other kinds of garbage to the Manila Port, tried to sneak it in and dispose of it, out of sight, out of mind from its clients in Vancouver where it stayed in a purgatory as Filipino people rightly demanded it be repatriated to Canada.  In the same way, we can see a digital circuit replicating and repeating these patterns of the outsourcing of the world's garbage to places that typically can ill afford to take it on.  They, of course, do it on the backs of their own population when that material has often not originated in these locations at all.

Thank you.  I'll leave it there.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you so much for giving us that fact‑filled initial remark.  Pearse, thank you very much for your participation in the discussions. Pearse has to leave us now for the remote participants.

Sarah, you’ve covered not only the electricity, but you have used, the use of resources in terms of water, for example, for cooling and data centers, the labour costs, and it all supports the remark that Pearse made about the leaking boat in a way of the environmental impact of the technologies.  For your mother, I saw a bumper sticker with a Cloud on it that said ‘There is no such thing as a Cloud, it is someone else's computer’

I want to come back to you and involve you in the discussion.

First, I want to move to a sort of ‑‑ you know, we have heard about the landscape, we have heard of perhaps surprising stories about how polluting not only the devices are but also the uses are.  I would like to introduce our next suite of speakers who will talk about various projects to either reduce environmental impacts of ICTs or actually find out more about what the environmental impact is.

Our first speaker and dear colleague is Giovanni Seppia who is the external relation manager since 2007, a decade at EURid, and prior to which he had a number of roles, including at ICANN and as General Manager of CENTR, which is the ccTLD or the domain name registries of Europe umbrella organization.  He has also has worked at the Italian .it registry before that, so a wealth of experience in the domain name sphere.

Giovanni Seppia is going to talk to us about EURid's work to reduce its impact as a domain name registry.

Then we'll hear from Mohamad Amin Hasbini from Kaspersky, he's a senior security researcher in the global research and analysis team at Kaspersky. Prior to that he was at Deloitte and Touche. He is also, and one of the reasons that we wanted to hear from Amin today, is that he's very much involved in the Dubai Smart Cities project, and is a board member at Securing Smart Cities. So, I hope that we'll be hearing about the Dubai project and environmental impact there.

Then we'll hear from Carolina Aguerre, a researcher at the University of San Andreas in Buenos Aires at the Technology and Society Centre.  She is also a visiting lecturer at the Catholic University of Uruguay and has spent many years as General Manager of LACTLD, the ccTLD organization for Latin America.  The three speakers will sort of guide us through the practical impacts stage.

May I ask you, Giovanni Seppia, to make your remarks.

Thank you.

>> GIOVANNI SEPPIA: Thank you, Emily.

Again, a big thank you to Sarah, because with very simple words, you explained to us what you called the ‘Internet materiality’. I have been fascinated by the way you explained in really layman terms to us the Internet we enjoy, how much impact is on the environment on a day‑to‑day basis.

As Emily was saying, EURid is the registry operator for the .eu Top Level Domain and its equivalent in Cyrillic. We are based in Brussels with regional offices in three other cities in Europe. 

What we have started to do in 2010, 2011 is to think about the impact of what we're doing.  How to impacts the environment.  What we decided is to have an umbrella under which we could organize and plan our activities in favour the environment to reduce our impact on the environment.  This umbrella is the EMAS registration system. EMAS is a voluntary registration system which was launched by the European Union almost 25 years ago.  It helps any company in any sector to manage its environmental impact and also to plan actions to reduce the environmental impact of the activities.  Again, it is a voluntary scheme, so that's a bit tricky.  You decide yourself how much you want to act in favour of the environment, but at least it helps you set objectives in favour of the environment and thanks to regular yearly audits it helps to measure how to improve your actions in favour of the environment. 

We have started in 2011 and in 2012 we became officially EMAS registered and we're registered with our office in Brussels and the other office in Pisa, and this year are going to have our regional office in Prague registered through the EMAS scheme.

We have set quite ambitious objectives since the beginning to reduce our carbon footprint and since 2013 we have also started the official process every year to assess and audit our carbon footprint and to buy official credits to offset the carbon footprint.

The first years, I must say, have been extremely bureaucratic, I was worried about all of the papers the auditors were asking me to print because I was saying we are doing a lot not to print papers, and then we have these external auditors asking me to print all of these millions of papers.  What I was doing, I was asking the external auditors to print the papers at their home so that we wouldn't increase the number of papers in the offices and that's what they did after one year.  It took me a year to convince them not to print the papers at least in my offices. 

So, it was quite bureaucratic and a heavy process in the beginning.  Then it became much smoother and much more efficient.  Since 2013 we completely offset our carbon footprint which is audited every year, by July every year, we offset the carbon footprint of the previous year.  We do it via official projects to compensate our carbon footprint.  The latest one is a borehole project in Uganda to help people to find clean water close to where they live.  It is an incredible project we got involved in.  We receive pictures. We follow via our social media and we follow by correspondence to be sure and see ourselves what is implemented with the official credits that we buy to compensate our carbon footprint.

But I would like to speak of something very practical today, you have seen downstairs, there are more than 100 booths all around this place.  Think about the impact of one booth only.  So as an Internet company we do attend fairs and events and we do build ad hoc booths, or we just have a presence at these fairs.  Every time we do that in the past we were not much thinking about the environmental impact of what we were doing.  In 2011, we have started to be really careful about that.  If you go to our booth downstairs, we have a nice booth corner, everything there is sustainable.

You see the booth is organized in a way there is some sort of green grass plastic, but it is from sustainable plastic and our logo, it is made by sustainable foam. And there are some nice gadgets and the merchandise, it is all sustainable.  There is one that we're very proud of, because a few years ago we have counted how many roll-ups we have been using in the past and we had 50 roll-ups that were produced for specific events and were stuck in junk rooms and we knew we would never use them again because they were for specific events.  We asked around, what are you doing with the roll-ups and surprisingly, most of our industry peers or companies, producers of the robots, they told us, well, we recycled the bottom and the upper part, but then the rest, we throw out.  So we were a bit surprised and disappointed to hear that.  We started to think about what we could have done with the roll-ups.  We found a nice company that's a company based in a jail, in a prison in north Italy and they have the recycling of different kinds of goods.  We contacted them and told them we have roll-ups, what can we do with these roll-ups?  They said to us send everything to us and we'll find something for you.

There are some nice little purses and bags down in our booth, those little bag, the purses, they're made of the roll-ups.  They recycled the roll-ups in a nice way.  Some of them, they look like Gucci, they're not Gucci, they look like Gucci because this company, they're very professional.  Not only was it an environmental project but a social project, because we gave some work to those people who have to spend, you know, some time in jail because of what they have done and they were extremely happy to have that special project.  We started to use this company more and more and we produced a lot of ruck sacks with unused t‑shirts from other events and we have done so many projects with the company and we're proud of to have this partnership and this is just one example.

I think one of our primary duties is to make sure that we always share this kind of Best Practice with our industry peers and not only like today at this workshop.

For your information, if you would like to know more, I would like to leave the floor to the other speakers and I'll be happy to answer any questions.  We have a specific section on our website, eurid.eu under ‘about us’ where you can read about it us, learn more about our environmental policy as well as all the projects that we have supported, including the recycling projects and including the projects that we're supported to compensate our carbon footprint.

To me, this is the most ‑‑ one of the most exciting parts of my job because I feel much better since we have started this process to reduce and to catch up on what we're doing, which is something that honestly and unfortunately many of our industry peers don't think about, which they should start thinking about.

Thank you for the opportunity to share this.  I'm happy to answer any questions and I give the floor back.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: You anticipated what I would ask next, which is we have lots of information coming at you, but this is a roundtable.  I'm very keen to first of all ‑‑ first of all, just raise your hand if you would like to make an intervention at this stage.  If there are any questions you would like to ask, points you would like to make in response to what you have heard, please do take that opportunity.

Would anybody like to ask a question or make a comment at this stage?

>> GIOVANNI SEPPIA: Pass by the booth, get one of these little purses, they're really nice.  It could be a really nice Christmas gift.  Please.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you.

If there are no questions, I would like to follow‑up very quickly because I'm keen also to make the best use of time and to move on to our great speakers as well, but you mentioned that some of your colleagues perhaps are not as active or as aware as EURid is in this space.  Could you give us an impression of how many registries are making this effort to reduce their carbon footprint or environmental impact and what might change things?

>> GIOVANNI SEPPIA: Thank you.  A good question.

From the data I have, from what I have heard, if I take just Europe, out of the 50, 55 registries in Europe I believe between 10 and 15 regularly assess their carbon footprint and compensate.

It is really ‑‑ it is a small, small percentage.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.

I have many more questions for both of you, but I will move on to the next speaker.  Amin from Kaspersky, who is going to talk to us about the smart city project, but I also ‑‑ we had a discussion in the corridor outside also about blockchain and I'm ask him also to elaborate a little bit on the environmental impact and some of the technologies that we're very excited about.

Amin, the floor is yours, welcome.  Thank you for joining us.

>> MOHAMAD AMIN HASBINI: Thank you very much.  It is a pleasure to be here.

I'll start my discussion with a bit of introduction about the the UAE environment, the UAE aspects in Dubai where I live there now, and there are special circumstances that cover U.A.E. that are worth mentioning.  I'll also move towards the technological side of things, how technology is actually affecting U.A.E. and then towards some of the new technologies that we're extremely interested about, like blockchain.

To start, U.A.E. is a small country, more or less, and they have more or less a single resource of energy, oil and gas.  Oil is actually extremely polluting, it is very difficult to just deal with oil and gas without affecting the environment.  In U.A.E. specifically too they have no water, that's another issue.  Clean water comes from water treatment facilities which are extremely polluting to the environment to and require a lot of efforts to just control the pollution, emissions etc.  In such an environment, another resource that I haven't mentioned in resource of energy, it is solar as a form of power.  There is a lot of solar power that is almost never ending and probably they have 360 days a year of full solar power and that's one of the main important aspects being utilized immediately right now and being planned for the future.  U.A.E. has a plan to go to around 25% of consumption of the whole country, currently 10 million people, 25% to be solar powered by 2030 and around 50% to be solar powered by 2050.  These are probably numbers that could be better, though we see a lot of progress happening in U.A.E. and probably these projects could probably happen faster.  They should happen faster actually.

We haven't discussed specifically the goals of going green.

One of the things that I find confusing when discussing going green or green energy is what are our goals.  All people will talk about is going lower on emissions, on the impact, the impact of using energy like gas, nuclear, et cetera, electronics, recycling, but we don't talk much about giving back to nature.  We have a lot of damage that's been happening for probably hundreds of years now, and we need to fix that.  We are now still in the negative and we talk about going lower on emissions and lower on the pollution impact, and that's still in the negative.  We need to start going into the positive where we're giving back to nature, we're filtering and cleaning water and the air that we're breathing, and that's ultimately towards our own benefits, mainly because we see that we're able to live longer and prosper better with less pollution.  In the UAE specifically there is a city now being established, it is already established, that's fully dependent on its own solar power. It’s called Masdar City, and it is just a test-bed for the different technologies that are being introduced into the country towards the best implementation of technological hardware and building material and building equipment and how they could be used ‑‑ how they affect the pollution in the country or how they impact the pollution in the country.  That's definitely an important aspect we see happening everywhere too.

I would like to mention also we go to blockchain directly, blockchain is an important technology that is extremely beneficial and it is extremely promising for our future and it helps in doing a lot of things.  We're not going to talk about that.

It is important to address the impact, the environment impact of blockchain and we have all heard about Bitcoin, who is now interested in buying Bitcoin, or using Bitcoin?  Probably everyone, especially now with the surge of prices around Bitcoin.  Nevertheless, we ignore the fact that Bitcoin is a crypto-currency generated from processing power, I have two laptops, I can generate the currency on them with Bitcoin by using it the processing power. I can run an algorithm and for a matter of time, in a year now I can generate what's around $100 of Bitcoin on my own laptop.  If we take that a little bit further to the future, we see that we have issues when everyone could be mining Bitcoin on their own computers.  Imagine everyone using all of their laptops to mine Bitcoin, how much impact would that do on the environment?  Just to give a small example, a small laptop like the ones here, in idle mode, when you're doing your normal activities, if you have 10% of the processing power, so there is 90%, not used, all right, and if you imagine that we'll be mining Bitcoin probably in the next years on our own devices, it will have a huge impact on the energy utilization and on the pollution of the environment. That's extremely worrying and something that we haven't spoken about yet and it is not mentioned even in the news, but it is definitely something that we need to worry about.

Another, a final thought, it is that when we're using all of our devices, laptops, computers, et cetera, it is not something that we can measure.  When we talk about ‑‑ thank you for the examples from the Facebook centers, we can measure the Facebook data centers utilization and we can compare that to percentages, or towns et cetera, but when we talk about individuals spread all over the world doing all of that, utilizing all of the processing power at the same time, the impact is much larger and definitely something that we have to be aware of.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.

Again, just to those attending and those remote participation, are there any comments, any questions that arise from the speakers so far?  Just introduce yourself as you raise your question, thank you.

>> AUDIENCE: I'm Abbey Vulmer and I work out of a company called Github based in San Francisco. I'm just asking this more out of personal interest though. Just with all of the hype over blockchain and Bitcoin, I'm intrigued by this point you just brought up, that if everybody's devices that are mining Bitcoin, this is a huge environmental impact that we need to think about. Do you know if there are alternatives or any proposals ‑‑ anybody who is thinking about that?  Are there thoughts about despite the fact that Bitcoin is all about decentralization about having a centralization to maybe make it more efficient?  I don't know enough blockchain to know if my question makes perfect sense, but do you get what I'm it driving at?

>> MOHAMAD AMIN HASBINI: I get what you mean.  The options are quite limited to be honest.  How do you control what somebody does on their own computer?

This is one thing that definitely is uncontrollable and if we dissect a little bit the process of doing the Bitcoin mining, it happens on a PC.  ‑‑ what happens on a PC, it is ‑‑ what is the source of energy, it is electricity, okay.  The person uses a person device to generate the currency which has worked ‑‑ is worth $100 in one year, a month for example and then he pays, let's say, to do that, he pays $10 in electricity.  We do have a disbalance here.  Until that is settled, we don't have ‑‑ we cannot have any control over what a person does on his own devices.  That's part of the big problem that we'll probably try to face in the next few years.

What else can we do?  Control what software is running on a PC, it is almost impossible.  You know that -- you’re from Github. You deal with software and the code, that's not possible.  We see now a lot of data centers being established just for crypto mining, just for ‑‑ they don't do services, they do not do government services, websites, nothing, they just are ‑‑ you can find them online ‑‑ they're just to do mining.  That's definitely something to be answered maybe in the next years.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.

Thank you also for the question.

I want to move through our remaining speakers while we have the time and then introduce you, Carolina Aguerre, to talk about the situations and projects in the Latin America region.  Thank you very much.

>> CAROLINA AGUERRE Thank you very much Emily and Giovanni.  Thank you for the opportunity of being here.  It is a pleasure.

I'll try to bring in a regional perspective of the Latin American, the Caribbean and it is great to have heard the previous approaches from my colleagues and Sarah, bringing in the academic perspective. I’m working as a researcher at the University at the centre moment, and I think Sarah the idea of bringing the materiality of IC Ts and Internet infrastructure is essential for all to understand where we stand and where we can go and proceed to address the issue.

Latin America, it is a vast region, diverse geographical ecosystems.  It is not the same to host a data center in the City of San Paolo or a city in the middle of Patagonia, you know.  I'm just ‑‑ this is the kind of diversity of landscape I want you to sort of bear in mind when we talk about data and footprint and ICTs in this very diverse context and it is also very interesting to note that we are receiving in Latin America a lot of attention from development banks and there are many studies coming forward in terms of how to develop the energetic grid because the region will grow ‑‑ it is a region that is vastly consuming energetic resources and saying it is going greener in terms of using a natural resources, not fewer resources but for example they're using a lot in Latin America, a lot of hydro energy and we know that rivers and dams, et cetera, they're not ecological per se that kind of energy from those resources.  What we see is in general, in the region, when talking about going greener in terms of the digitalization, it is on one hand an approach that is very much centered in eWaste management.  This has been an agenda that's been on the run since around 2005, 2006.  We still see there’s a huge impact in this Agenda being fostered for example from programs from the ITU and many universities, many national universities in the region are big partners in this eWaste management programs and so we have many schools of engineering around the region that are partnering with the ITU, or with the local government, et cetera, to generate this kind of eWaste factory or recycling programs for computers, smart phones, et cetera, and this is an approach that is in itself extremely valuable and we can count over 20 countries in the region that have those programs at this stage, but – and it is interesting, this is addressing the material part of the technology, but only one small bit, just ‑‑ the most visible layer of the technology, the gadgets, the computers. So what we're not seeing in the region is what is the impact of data centers, which is basically what is the Cloud?  Is the Cloud in tropical countries, I mean, something that could be ‑‑ you would need much more AC, for example, the IXP center until San Paolo, you have so much Internet traffic there, it is a system with as much as connectivity and users as any European ‑‑ any major European city in the world.

The servers, when you go, you look at the offices, the servers occupy 50% and AC and refrigeration occupies other remaining area.  This is the kind of decisions that technicians and policymakers  around these issues have to take into account.

On the other hand, though we need to have Internet infrastructure, IXPs, CDNs closer to the users for environmental impacts and also for better Internet access, this has a cost. In tropical countries, in warm environments, this is a high cost and it is a major policy decision that we need to balance and to take into account.

Also particularly in the region, so there is an expectation that the demand for energy will grow 80% from 2011 to 2030 but in Central America, in the Caribbean, so the hottest areas, this will increase by 120% by 2030.  This is a real challenge.

I will leave it here and then we can address further questions.  I wanted to sort of raise some of the big issues.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: I'm aware there is so much more that can be said.  This is really just getting the conversation started, if you like.

Are there any other members from the floor who would like to make a remark or intervene at this stage?

If not, I would like to just introduce our final speaker, last, but definitely not least at all, really thrilled to have Sabrina Abualhaiga who is our youth representative on the panel. Sabrina is associated with several youth associations and organizing events that promote the youth participation in Internet Governance issues, including a debate entitled Internet Autonomie, the Internet is your friend last year.  There's a lot more to be said about Sabrina.  I wanted Sabrina as a representative of youth ‑‑ I'm sorry to do this to you, but to really think towards the future, what is the risk if nothing is done and perhaps you could reflect on all of the questions and thinking about the future, what needs to be done?  What actions do people need to take.

The floor is yours.

Thank you.

>> SABRINA ABUALHAIGA: Thank you.

So I will say that during ‑‑ I have made a questionnaire, a survey that was given to a lot youth, and on the questionnaire was asked if they know what Sustainable Development means, if so, do they know the impact of the digital on the environment ‑‑ what kind of an impact there is and what was very amazing, is that the youth in general don't really think that there is a digital impact on the environment. For giving you numbers. 36% of the youth that was asked the questions the youth and number of students, it was huge, maybe 100 youths, 30% said there was no impact at all, no impact of the Internet, no impact on the environment which is amazing because I think we know there is a huge impact. And what is most amazing is that 9% think there is a positive impact of the digital environment ‑‑ on the environment.  So, they think that the impact is positive, which is quite amazing.

When I asked, Do you think if there is a little impact, a huge impact, what level of impact is there and for 60%, okay, if there is an impact on the environment, there is little.  So they ‑‑ I think there is a lack of awareness of what is sustainable development of the impacts, a lot of impacts on the digital world on the environment.

To go on what in my point of view would be, will happen for our future if we don't try to reduce the risk, first of all, I think youth will continue growing, and will continue to think that there is no impact.  Measures that could be taken, they could not ‑‑ they will not ‑‑ there is not great measures that will be taken.

Finally, the global warming that we were talking before, and pollution, will just continue to grow without really succeeding to have ‑‑ for ‑‑ after the industrial revolution, there is the threshold of consumption and the consumption exploded.  To take this image, I think if the digital revolution is not taken in hand it be can be the next cause ‑‑ I want to say destruction and by that I mean climate changes and other global warming that we know is caused by pollution and it would just be worse than before.

I read a text on the ODGs and saw that for the Millennium Goals.  There were objectives to reduce carbon and to improve environmental development but it was not really taken as a priority.  So, we passed to the ODGs with the idea to take more consideration on Sustainable Development, but reliability and the choice of indicators that were used, they're always in question.  We have used indicators for the millennial objectives that we didn't really change them or ‑‑ I will not read this ‑‑ but there was really not a work on is the indicator really available doing more, is the fact that we have too much indicators not helping the objectives that we have.  I think if ‑‑ I think I'm ‑‑ I'm sorry.  I think if we don't take it at the first level and in the schools’ level, elementary level, things will be ‑‑ it will be taken in hand I think it will be too late. And would be at the end more valuable than in the past I think.

Thank you.  Thank you.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: That's very clear.

Thank you very much Sabrina for those thoughts.  Also for going out to your colleagues in the youth environment ‑‑ if I can say it like that ‑‑ to ask for their views as well.

You know, just sitting here, listening to the remarks of all of the panellists, it really does strike me that there are some themes coming through, incredibly low level of awareness amongst people about the environmental impact of our online life, devices and what we're doing there.  Also, as you said, if we fail to address it, it will become a major global issue if we don't do anything.

Sarah, I know I wanted to comment, Carolina, anyone else want to ‑‑ Sarah, please, intervene, then I'll go back to Carolina.

>> SARAH ROBERTS: Thank you for all of the remarks.  It’s really fascinating.  As I suspected, I'm taking many notes.  A thing I was thinking about in the context of the discussions, it relates to my work on content moderation as well which is the way in which the vast amount of generation of content has become naturalized to the point that it is not questioned and there is really just an expectation that it be what it is.

I want to point out the fact that I think there is a value in actually stepping back, examining the relationship that major platform that solicited the user content have to the kinds of environmental impacts that we're talking about.

In other words, Facebook has massive data centers not just because Facebook has massive data centers, but because it thrives derives revenue from the constant uploading creation of user created content, which is articulated to the user to create it, on one hand as a labour‑free process, which I would argue it is not, but on the other hand as we have seen hopefully and has been demonstrated by the panellists as an environmental ‑‑ at best an environmentally neutral, if not potentially beneficial activity.  So my question might be or my intervention at this point may be to what extent must we hold the platforms to account for the processes that they have solicited at vast scale in order to generate revenue, while really offsetting so many of the costs and in my area of concern that’s typically labour related but the environmental piece is there as well.  Another data point, this one I know myself, I didn't have to ask anyone.  YouTube alone receives 400 hours of content per minute per day uploaded to its servers. It relies on that content, of course, to bring participants to its platform which is then delivers to the advertisers at great profit.

That 400 hours of content, as we have now seen, manifests through a production chain that we could say begins in the Colton Mines where minerals, rare Earth minerals are dugout of the ground, going through various manufacturing processes, through special economic zones that exist outside of appropriate taxation and environmental regulation schemes.  Those labour processes involve shipping, all of those hardware devices, other things, to various points in the world and then, of course, we have talked about the software infrastructure as well and then at the other end we have the dismantling of the materials.

So, the thing I would like to raise, this point, it is that I think we need to have a significant discussion on denaturalizing the expectation that platforms be able to endlessly profit from the proliferation of the material that they require for their own revenue generation.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you.

For those not in the room, participating online, there is a lot of nodding going on from the speakers.

Carolina, you wanted to raise a point?  Also I'm going to invite, again, anybody from the room who wants to just comment on the issue or make a remark, you're very, very welcome to.

Would anybody like to ask for the floor at this stage?  Thank you.

>> AUDIENCE: I'm from the Electronic Frontier Finland.  You started by saying that everybody wants Bitcoin, but I don't anymore because they're using vast resources and that's not solved.  I think the way it looks right now is that it even can't be solved.  Unless we actually get a new source of energy, it is going to go on like that.  At the moment it is already using more energy than 19 countries in Europe individually.

I think it is not currency for the future, there are other alternatives using much less energy and we shouldn’t really put all our eggs in that basket.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you. Amin, Will Bitcoin eat the planet do you think ‑‑

>> MOHAMAD AMIN HASBINI Well, we definitely have a lot to worry about.  It is still a stage we can act.  How do you convince people on each side of the world that we should not mine Bitcoin and how do you convince regulators to ban Bitcoin?  Bitcoin is now worth around $500 billion and it is increasing on a daily basis, tomorrow it will be 550, a few weeks ago it was around 300 billion.  People are mining and it is a matter of cost and benefit for every person.  A lot of people find if they can mine $10 a day of money in some countries, that's a lot of money.  It brings us back to the same question, how do you convince people? Raising awareness, it is still not enough, you have seen the statistics on youth and how are we going to enforce such measures?  Bitcoin is already here.  It already is worth money.  It is already almost regulated, more or less.  It is already being enhanced, and adapted for mass people to use and mine.  I don't see any answers at the moment.

Sorry, I'm taking up ‑‑ 30 seconds.

What worries me most is that in 10 years we'll actually be less worried about pollution and the environment and people will all rely ‑‑ will rely on the digital currency and mining Bitcoin without any consideration to pollution and only worry about their own virtual environment, my own social networking page and my own city which I created online and I have this VR mask on my head and I live in it and that's ‑‑ I'm not okay with that, but I can see that coming.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Carolina.

>> CAROLINA AGUERRE:  I wanted to raise a small comment related to Sabrina’s presentation. There’s a great paradox, stemming from the metaphors around ICTs and the Internet and crypto currency and all of the technologies we use and protocols, and that is that we don't understand how this works and the millennials, the youth ‑‑ how do you call them now ‑‑ the teenagers ‑‑ I don't ‑‑

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Young people

>> CAROLINA AGUERRE Whatever the name is, X, Y, Z generation, so interestingly enough they ‑‑ these are the people and there have been several labels to categorize sort of heavy Internet users, but these heavy Internet users and the youth that spend hours and hours a day on ICTs and tend not to understand basic considerations of how the technology works.  Because of this, this is a seen we're seeing in my region, Latin American, 16‑year‑olds spending 8 hours a day using smart phones and computers but they don't understand how it works and what the Internet means, actually how it works and they find that it’s all immaterial, so we can expect these younger generations if they don’t understand how the technology works, to at least understand what the impacts, what it will be like.  There is really so much to be done there at the literacy level with the younger generations and older ones as well.  Finally, policymakers, once again, I'm very distressed to see people in Latin American still aiming to expand the energy grid for more electronic adoption and looking at still financing eWaste management projects by not being able to look beyond that.  Those are one or two comments.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: To be fair ‑‑ thank you very much.

I think that, first, it is probably the region that's not alone in that.  I think it is the discussion around environmental issues and environmental impacts of ICT has not really been as vibrant and taken up the same pace as adoption.  Giovanni Seppia, I'll give you the floor and perhaps I can ask you also to reflect on, you know, practical steps, what do you think even in EURid’s sphere of operation, what would make a difference if more people did or more people thought or more people regulated?

>> GIOVANNI SEPPIA: Thank you, Emily.

Indeed, there are a lot of takes from this workshop today.

I heard the need to generate more awareness of the different generations, not only youth people, the millennials, whatever you call them.

It is a need for all generations to be more aware of the environmental impact of the Digital Environment.

At the same time, I think we should all start to look around ourselves, what we're doing in our daily life, from a personal, professional perspective and see how we can practically contribute to reduce the environmental impact.  Not by chance I gave the example of the roll-ups because they were all around me in the offices, and you're exposed to that and you try to find the solution.  In that, we should not point the finger at what others do not do but we should point the finger to ourselves and say what can we do to reduce the environmental impact of our activities of professional level.

By doing that, we can contribute to a better environment and you have the data centers and you think about the data centers and the different data centers and in the case of EURid, what we have done, in the case of the environmental scheme we have adopted, we have selected the data center and we have the standards that the center must follow and it is a part of the philosophy by agreeing to what greener Digital Environment.  It is not easy, it takes a lot of patience, it takes ‑‑ let's say it takes consistency, you must be consistent and never giving up to the easy solutions that are at hand, that you may have a better solution from an environmental perspective, that are not a hand but, you know, by choosing the solutions, you have contributed to the environment and this is a practical example of what we're now living this IGF, honestly I would have liked the IGF secretariat and it is a point I'll make, to be a bit more thoughtful about the environmental impact of the meeting, of all of the booths downstairs, there are no rules, no requirements for booths, I'm sure at the end there will be a tonnes of wasted materials left downstairs. There is no recycling downstairs.  Yesterday I was looking for the plastic can ‑‑ we had some plastic emballage for things that have shipped, everything is thrown in the same basket downstairs.  We were invited to throw it there, because for them it is much easier.  It is not good.  I think that the little things we can do on a daily basis to contribute to the environment, and again, I will make the remarks to the secretariat to be more thoughtful about this.  At the end, there are little things that count and can help us.  Then we can talk about the Bitcoin, blockchain, data centers and we should start from little things and move to the bigger things.  If we don't look at the small things sometimes, again, there would be no difference.

Thank you.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.  Thank you for that insight into the recycling or lack of it in the U.N. itself, it is a question of not so much do as I say, but ‑‑ you know, do as I say, not do as I do.

Sabrina Abualhaiga would you like to make any final contribution on next steps, what needs to be done and practical outcomes.

>> SABRINA ABUALHAIGA: I think there is more  stakeholders now that pay attention to the environment and try to put in place adequate indicators to monitor the evolution of the impacts of the Internet and environment which is not easy to measure and to bring the information and communication, I think it could be ‑‑ it is more important to bring this information and communication on the risks and bad influence of the Internet that the speakers, that we can bring the information and communication from the youth on what is there, the Digital Environment, what is Sustainable Development, there could be more concern if they know what are the bad risks and the behavior and the Internet, you know you have the youth are addict, and not only youth on the Internet, you know, it is everywhere you can open your fridge or your garage remotely, and really connects and also this is important for everyone and could be interesting to reduce the innovation fever. To be innovative and I'm sure that the step‑by‑step innovation, it is a concern, and to introduce good habits and reduce bad impact and to think of something else, maybe it will reduce slow down the innovation energy, but it will maybe be more healthy for the environment finally. And maybe the solutions need to come from the digital actors and not only from the governments, we always ask politics and governments to respond to questions, to issues, that are not really ‑‑ that are not the concern and the digital actors are, and it can bring solutions that are not adapted to the risks

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.

Would anybody from the room like to take the floor?  Make a statement, a question, raise an issue?

Please.

>> AUDIENCE: Abi Vulmer from GIThub again, wondering, Sarah and Carolina may this thoughts on this. For a company like Github which is the world's leading software development platform, where most people go to do coding, what sort of measures do you think will be most impactful for a company like us when you think of our environmental impact of the software and the data centers are top of mind, but related to that, I'm curious to know.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you for that question.

Carolina, Sarah, any tips?  Amin, you may like to come in from your perspective.

>> CAROLINA AGUERRE:  I would say that even Giovanni as a manager of an Internet industry related business but ‑‑ related ‑‑ but I would say that I mean, to try to be consciously aware as an organization, of where you stand, that's ‑‑ we cannot stop the progress of technology.  We cannot stop innovation and cannot say and I didn't mention the statistics before, but I mean, Cloud‑based services rather than ‑‑ there was ‑‑ I have seen a couple of reports coming from the private sector, not from intergovernmental bodies or research authorities, but they say that the cloud-based services reduce the energy consumption by 30% compared with individual computers, the 1980s, the 1990 model.  There is a balance there that we have to pay attention to as well.  We move into Cloud platforms, the new generating contents, will it work along those lines, so tying back again, I think it is just a matter of going back to my experience in what it takes to cool down the data centers.  In San Francisco you're very well located ‑‑ you serve a global community I would say, but you're very well located in terms of trying to find a place where you won't spend as many resources in cooling down or heating the environment to maintain servers in a good fashion.  I think that the recommendations by Giovanni Seppia in looking at it as an organization, those are my comments on that.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Thank you very much.

We have minus a minute.

Are there any quick, urgent, really, really short sort of practical responses?

>> SARAH ROBERTS I would say just having an enterprise level environmental plan and assessment, it would be an important place to start.

Also I would urge transparency around that and firms are interested in market differentiation and a financial upside to activities, I would say that's one way to propose it within your organization.

>> GIOVANNI SEPPIA: I agree with what was just said.  I would recommend also and if you have the resources, the official CO2 compensation process and it is an incredible useful exercise and also from a security perspective because the company, you look at the perspective of the labour office opportunity, it is more in line with the international standards, not only to compensate CO2 but a very good exercise for a good environmental plan.

>> EMILY TAYLOR: Perhaps we'll talk in the margins but I have to bring the session, I'm sorry, to a close.  Thank you.

I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of the speakers today for really a fascinating, insightful remarks and contributions.  I hope this is a start of a conversation that continues and can pervade these Internet discussions on other issues with environmental awareness.  Thank you to everyone.  Thank you for your participation.  

 

 

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