Public Sector Green IT Inertia Exposed

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The UK public sector won’t meet government carbon targets for IT, unless it gets its skates on, according to a survey

The results of a survey published last week suggest the UK public sector has a lot of work to do to meet the government’s carbon reduction targets.

Cisco commissioned the independent charity, Name to survey 150 public sector IT managers about their confidence in meeting the carbon reduction targets set out in the Greening Government ICT Strategy.

The targets, set out last year by the then minister for transformational government, Tom Watson, call for all public sector organisations to cut 11.5% from carbon emissions by 2011 and for carbon neutrality by 2012.

But the survey found 67 percent of respondents were ‘concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about their organisations ability to meet the targets set out in the strategy.

Only 16 percent of respondents were currently sharing best practice and knowledge in the development and implementation of green IT strategies with other public sector agencies.

And only 22 percent had set internal green IT targets, while a tiny 13 percent actually measured their carbon footprint.

Steve Palmer, president of public sector IT body, Socitm stated: “Most third and public sector bodies know that they cannot afford to continue as normal and will need to restructure the way that services are delivered.

“Green ICT initiatives cannot just reduce travel, enable flexible working and reduce energy consumption; they can also improve the quality and delivery of frontline services. What is needed is greater understanding and collaboration between organisations to put these innovations into practice.”

Despite these financial pressures, 70 percent of those surveyed agreed that green IT remained important. Nearly a third (30 percent) of respondents had introduced a form of video-conferencing technology and a further 28 percent said IT was used to promote and support flexible working practices.

Neil Crockett, head of Public Sector in UK and Ireland at Cisco stated: “Overall the results demonstrate there is still much work to be done. ICT has the power to transform the way the public sector delivers its services, helping to improve inter-agency communication and meet the government’s carbon reduction targets.

And Ewen Anderson, managing director of IT consultancy Centralis commented that IT strategy, like government policy, only really works when it is joined up.

“An effective strategy considers energy use and resulting carbon emission as part of an overall strategy to reduce costs and increase efficiency. While the climate change agenda is too important to be seen as just a side benefit, it has to take it’s place alongside commitments to deliver flexible working, business continuity in the face of global threats such as swine flu and ever more emphasis on compliance regulation and cost savings,” Anderson said.