Summary of the first book - Computing Research for Sustainability

How sustainability and ICT are linked together?

Sustainability and ICT are in my opinion strongly linked together. Whereas ICT provides at the same time opportunities to sustainable development, it also creates problems, such as the rising demand of energy. Nevertheless I think that today and especially in the future ICT & GreenIT will play a major role regarding sustainable development. I think that although ICT has created some issues such as; in 2008 researches estimated that ICT is responsible for 2% of the greenhouse gas emissions and considering any individual business ICT is accountable for much higher percentage regarding the businesses greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless in my opinion ICT has contributed to sustainable development to greater extent than it has created issues. Same researchers also argued that ICT could provide a solution to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. Also I see ICT as a major part of the solution to sustainability issues and as a tool to reach sustainable lifestyle.

ICT and three pillars of sustainable development

What is sustainable development or sustainability actually? Sustainable development is constructed from three pillars or dimensions, which are ecological, social and environmental dimension. How can ICT contribute to these three pillars? ICT can be used to increase our knowledge of our environment and reduce the environmental burden, then again how can we reduce the environmental impact of production, use and disposal of ICT. Considering social dimension, what is ICT’s role in social development, how are we able to use ICT to promote communities working towards the mission to achieve sustainable development? Can ICT support and offer a solution for social justice in a global scale? Then again concentrating to economic dimension, does ICT play a key role for structural change within the economy from industrial to post-industrial mode? Is ICT a solution to reduce interdependence of economic growth and growing resource consumption, replace virtual modes of production and consumption for energy-intensive processes, to dematerialize significant parts of economic system? Can ICT guide growing or emerging economies to advance into this mode without imitating the unsustainable manners of the industrial mode first?

ICT and its contribution to sustainable development

ICT offers a profitable opportunity and plays a crucial role regarding other sectors to shape and apply solutions required to establish a green economy and society. ICT performance will continue be highly important for developed countries in order to sustain long-term competitiveness and improving the innovation potential of such countries. Nevertheless ICT performance for developed economies will also be as important regarding the promotion of structural transformation, growing effectiveness and also lowering the digital, economic and social division within their areas. ICT can provide important data through modeling of natural disasters in example, changes in the global ecosystem, energy consumption et cetera. ICT can help to promote so-called smart network thus to control the use of energy more effectively for example, this would directly address the question of the continual rising demand of energy in the world. ICT contributes to social sustainability by offering larger access to basic services within all of the societies segments and enhances the ways these basic services, such as finance, education and healthcare for example are delivered to citizens. ICT reduces environmental affect of existing services through dematerialization, such things as books, music, bills or even meetings that before required a physical presence are matters that can be dematerialized through ICT. Economic growth is promoted through ICT for instance; as a result of availability of a broadband, computers and software in a country it will improve its competitiveness and the general performance of its economy in long-term.

Articles used:




Computing Research for Sustainability – Chapter 3 learning outcomes. Henri Mikkola

What I learned from this chapter is the fact that CS research can be a vital solution for addressing sustainability issues. It will not be single solutions but instead it can be combined with other solutions to create a more effective outcome towards sustainable development. It was also an important learning point to begin CS research with bottom-up method thus selecting a critical sustainable issue and solving it rather than trying to achieve universality from the beginning. For me it was eye-opening experience to really discover some concrete areas where CS research can be used and how it can contribute towards sustainability. The possibilities that CS research can provide is vast and although for me it has been evident that computer science will be needed for modeling or sensing I did not realize before the vast amount of opportunities that evolving CS research can provide. Also I have earlier thought that in order to achieve sustainability in our current lifestyle and change our behavior we need education from the beginning. The same applies to CS research whereas it should be an important element in education to address and also increase the amount of education provided. I think that this is the most important point within sustainable future because future generations should already learn to become sustainable and how they can contribute towards sustainable development from the beginning rather than trying to learn these issues later on. I think that what chapter 3 really provided is the important linkage between sustainability, universality and bottom-up approach – how these three can be effectively combined together in order to promote each other. What was enlightening for me while reading the chapter 3 or actually the whole book was the amount of potential that lies with in CS research for sustainability. I think it is a shame that even though I have selected sustainability as my minor I have not come across CS research and sustainability before. I think that this has been somewhat a missing linkage for everything I have learned, somewhat the enabler to sustainable future – the key element for achieving sustainable development. Chapter 3 brings everything well together and really shows how much possibilities CS research can propose to the global challenges and how it can be done.

Roadmap to Greener Computing – Chapter 1 learning outcomes. Henri Mikkola

From this chapter I really learned that how much toxins do computer parts still contain. I have somewhat taken it for granted that computer parts would not include toxins today but the book shows the reality. I could not help to consider the renewal period of new components within computers; this is really fast thus the amount of waste generated is huge. Also considering that these parts contain so many toxins even today is very alarming. Nevertheless the chapter also proposed some interesting solutions that were somewhat obvious that I could not help to think that why haven’t these already been applied. Some solutions were kind of interesting such as the bamboos usage. What was clear already for me is the importance and usability of life cycle analysis thus this did not propose anything new. While reading the chapter I started to think about the modern computers and how much power they today require, which is also constantly increasing. This is highlighted in the industry sector because industries generally represent larger scale use thus the impact is higher. For me it was an important matter to deal with and I had my own experience from the past as well while I used computer for gaming. While the parts constantly evolved and developed it was not enough to renew some parts but always the power supply had to be changed while the amount of power constantly increased to run the PC smoothly. If the power supply would not be changed the computer would not have enough power to run the improved CPU or graphical card, the memory increase et cetera. I started to think about solutions that were also presented within the book that how to deal with the increasing amount of energy required. The book proposed different types of solutions to tackle these issues but couldn’t the power saving be directly within the design of these new improved parts of the computers rather than turning off computers, using virtual servers et cetera? Obviously such idle modes are present as the book shows but wouldn’t it be more effective to design new parts that are more powerful but require less energy? As the chapter proposed data centers produce a lot of heat and require at the same time cooling, this heat generated should be used effectively for warming up houses for example. I think that end-of-life is a highly important issue to address within computing because the lifecycle of a CPU or a memory is very low, there are constant improvements in an accelerating rate. What was new today is old after few months.

How to increase sustainability aspects in LUT CS/SWE programme?

First of all sustainability should be included to some extent into every course. I think it would be a natural way to deal with sustainability because it should be part of everything we do. Because there is not one or even few solutions to our sustainability issues we face today, instead small actions in large numbers will have a huge affect to increasing sustainability and solving the problems. Although this applies to every course, if we would like only to focus to computer science or software engineering the principles are generally the same; sustainability has to be part of everything if we want to succeed. I am not personally an expert in computer science or software engineering because my knowledge is based only on this course but I don’t think it is an issue since I can provide my own viewpoint from the perspective of business studies. I started to tackle the issue by thinking about the courses I have had earlier and what I am doing today. I think that the fundamental purpose is to be more efficient, different, better, cost-effective, more productive and radical et cetera; for modern business to succeed these might not be the overall purpose and only “solution” but instead elements that have to be pursued in order to be profitable and survive in the highly competitive business world. In computer science I bet that the list is not that different, we are striving towards change and efficiency! Now I think that sustainability plays a huge role within these elements if it is used correctly – I think it provides opportunities that are not yet used in the extent they could be used. In my opinion a large part of this comes from the thinking that sustainability is expensive, philanthropic and something extra. Now in order this to change we need to see and experience it in real life how this is not the case. Although we have already experienced success stories that grow in number everyday it has not yet been enough – the direction is correct nevertheless. What I think is that if we would have sustainability planted in every course in its own way it would be an excellent solution to increase the sustainability aspect within the future generations. These people who graduate have a larger know-how and the keys to be successful within implementing sustainability aspect deeper to companies actions where they work for or perhaps establish their own business that could be actually entirely based on sustainability.

In order to have sustainability involved within every course it will take a lot of resources and planning because the courses should still remain their key purpose and sustainability should just be a natural part of it, because you cannot ignore sustainability - it should be everywhere. This will require more training for our professors and co-operation with companies that have already implemented sustainability aspect to their business successfully. Also I think that todays courses would benefit more if they would involve project work with real life cases thus involving companies to the courses, NGOs or non-profits et cetera. I think that this would be a win-win situation for everyone because students have a lot to give for companies whereas companies would bring the cases to real life and in practice rather than just being theoretical – a huge benefit for the students stepping to working life in the future.

Leading-edge companies working with CS or SWE in terms of sustainability would be a logical option to co-operate with but I think that in later stages (4th or 5th year as a student in the masters level) could take this to the next level and work with CS/SWE companies that are not yet that good with sustainability thus help these companies to evolve. Nevertheless it is vital to keep the fundamental purpose and idea of the teaching and courses and not mix everything with sustainability thus the courses become only about sustainability aspect. Therefore the resources and planning stage is key for successful implementation of sustainability aspect to every course. The main idea would be the same as in companies strategies; if sustainability is left outside the companies strategies and everyday operations it will not be successful instead sustainability has to be involved with the planning of strategies and everyday processes.

What I also think is key to teach for the students and show with the courses, is that sustainability is not just a passing trend that will be “out” after 10 years or 5 years. Instead it will and should be the major part of our everyday life in the future. Students should learn from the beginning that why we talk about sustainability and why it is so important – set the foundation correct before going further with sustainability aspect. Therefore I think that in LUT CS/SWE programme have to co-operate more with our environmental department & it’s students, forming a type of cross-culture. This would mean that both departments should work together to bring their best know-how for sustainability aspect. I think that we have a lot to learn, the basics at the minimum from environmental department in LUT. I have experienced this myself by starting as a student in a programme that is fundamentally about business strategies but works closely with the environmental department; we have courses about sustainability but these are implemented from business perspective thus very related to our own studies. I think that this will be a huge part of implementing sustainability to every course in someway! Also in my opinion we should not limit the co-operation only with few departments but instead try to bring the different departments closer together because we can benefit majorly from each other.

4 Exam questions

1. Why is CS important for sustainable development?

This is a good question because it will make the student start to think about computer science and how it can be used for striving towards sustainable development. Also it does not limit the answer to IT perspective but instead it will combine IT and everyday operations, processes et cetera. A wide essay question that proves how the student has understood and considered CS and sustainability also shows what the student has learned. I also think that our discussions have been full of perspectives for CS and how it can be important for sustainable development. In addition the books contain also a lot of material that helps to answer to this question.

2. How would you improve sustainability in a company through computer science?

This question shows how the student can take what he/she has learned to real life. The company is left undefined because the student can select any company that he/she is familiar with. This question will provide concrete solutions and require the combination of theories and real life, thus a perfect question that shows the creativity of a student and what he/she as actually learned. Also I don’t think that creativity plays too much role within this question because we have had long discussions in the lectures that help us to comprehend the topic more deeply even if we are not “creative persons”. I think that involving companies with the exams is vital to really show who deserves 5 and who does not. In future everyone will be working in some sort of a company and I think that taking the steps to more empirical level by combining the theory and empirical part together in a question would be perfect for the exam in this course.

3. What is GreenIT and how it shows in real life?

This is a simple question that is somewhat fundamental for the course, it shows what the student has gained from the course and has he/she thought about GreenIT within everyday life. It somewhat shows has the course been successful, what student has learned and has he/she brought the learning experience of the course to everyday life. Also at the same time it will be interesting and useful way to learn from the students and their experiences. If the student cannot explain GreenIT it shows that he/she has not listened or familiarized with the courses basics. Also because I think that every student in this course can do it the question requires more advanced perspective that we have had present with our discussions already. Therefore it shows who has been part of the discussions actively or if he/she is shy but has thought about the matters in his/her own mind it gives them a chance to shine as well.

4. Explain three sustainability issues (theoretical or real life) and propose how these can be solved or assisted with CS or GreenIT?

This would be an excellent question to test how and what the student has learned. I think that using examples outside the book would give higher numbers because it shows that type of thinking that is required in the future, it shows that the student has really learned something and taken use of the courses contents. I think that solutions can be really fascinating and perhaps something that has not ever thought of. Radical ideas can eventually create huge solutions and young minds of the current generations can be full of these. By explaining three concrete sustainability issues the student shows that he/she has familiarized with the basics and then taking it further the student shows his/hers expertise by discussing about different solutions or a part of the solution through CS or GreenIT.