How Technology Will Drive the Transition to the Low-Carbon Economy: ICT and the Sustainability Imperative

Governments, businesses, and societies are all scrambling for a more efficient and greener way to operate and grow. Supporting this pressing need is a growing consumer population and a proliferation of myriad innovative services. Together these trends promise to usher in unprecedented business models and changes to social behavior. It is not easy to get society to behave green unless there is an underlying support system from both businesses and governments providing a personal impetus for this change. Information and communication technologies (ICT) lends itself easily to new models of profitable services so businesses will find it lucrative to innovate in this space.

The creative use of technology, coupled with innovative business models and progressive policymaking, will play a critical role in delivering the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions cuts needed to meet global climate change targets. ICT companies can leverage their abilities in smart information management and create new services that positively influence human behavior to combat the climate challenge, thus benefiting company, society, and government in a triple win-win-win scenario.

This chapter will explore the impact of technology, innovative business models, and policymaking on environmental sustainability. The economic opportunity triangle: Change in life, work, and play We are on the threshold of a huge opportunity that will unfold over the next couple of decades. Spoken in the midst of the current challenging times, a statement like that may sound preposterous, but three distinct trends have emerged over the past few years, and we must not let the recession cloud their visibility. The first trend is the likely addition of a huge number of consumers to the global marketplace.

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There are various estimates about the numbers; the top end of the estimates is upward of a billion over the next decade.These consumers will come mostly from the developing countries.As education, infrastructure, and healthcare progress in these countries, a vast number of people will take advantage of these improvements for better living standards.

All of them will need shelter, food, transportation, communication, education, healthcare, entertainment, appliances, and a lot more.The infrastructure in their countries should also be developed to support the aspirations of these people.This trend provides a huge opportunity for companies in various industries, particularly in the ICT sector. If we look at the composition of various segments of global output, we see that the services sector contributes significantly to the global economy.This is where the second trend manifests itself.The continuous addition of new consumers to the market has prompted the creation of more and new services and the modification of old services to cater to their needs and preferences.

Humans want to participate, to play a role, in what is going on around them. But they do not want to feel incompetent and helpless when they participate in society’s good.There is a need for a good business model that understands and facilitates participatory problem solving, thereby easily invoking the desired behaviors and naturally motivating enlisted people to be a part of the solution.To successfully change behavior, the model should track and report on results—both individual and collective—in a concerted effort to create a sense of accomplishment; reporting should never be allowed to be perceived as the publication of a social defaulters list.

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Tracking (for example, the net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from every car) and celebrating success should motivate others to participate actively rather than remain on the sidelines.A deep understanding of the “why” of human behavior is required before designing the “how” in all successful social changes.

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