Responsible digital technology
Computers and digital technology play a key role in our society, and are used in almost every sector, including AI. Although digital technology has many advantages, it also causes serious damage: environmental pollution and social problems. Is a responsible digital future possible?
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How can we preserve the use of digital technology while limiting its pollution? Can artificial intelligence using computers and digital technology be compatible with responsible digital technology?
Digital technology is constantly evolving, to the point where it is omnipresent in our society, with ever more sophisticated digital terminals and ever more functionalities.
The digital industry essentially encompasses digital terminals, data centers and network infrastructures. Today, everything is changing and must move fast. With this in mind, there’s only one watchword: innovation. However, this high demand for digital innovation is not without consequences.
Omnipresent, yes, even in environmental disasters.
Energy consumption and CO2 emissions are exploding: the digital sector accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the aviation sector. Moreover, stocks of metals and ores are depleted, and impressive quantities of water are used every day: 1500 L of water are needed to design a single computer. And yet, 45% of the functions required on digital terminals are never used, and the lifespan of products is deliberately reduced in order to increase their replacement frequency. (Digital obsolescence).
And what about artificial intelligence?
As you’d expect: the use of large volumes of computation to learn algorithms, voracious use of servers, storage of large amounts of collected data… Artificial intelligence, while driving positive developments in the medical field in particular, is also contributing to the depletion of environmental resources and the development of greenhouse gases.
Digital pollution, i.e. the pollution generated by greenhouse gas emissions, chemical components and electronic waste, is therefore increasing all the time. Studies show that the majority of digital pollution occurs during the manufacturing process.
As well as a definite environmental disaster, there are also human tragedies associated with the manufacture of terminals: toxic emissions, illegal financing, pollution of drinking water sources and soil impacting food production…
Digital technology is not available to everyone.
More and more, the Internet is becoming an indispensable part of our society: administrative procedures, online payments, dematerialized information…
However, the use of new technologies goes beyond and/or is inaccessible for some people, mainly in the following situations.
Personal situation (age, education…)
Disability, visual impairment…
To be excluded from the digital world is to be socially isolated.
Although these situations are improving, they are still all too common. Clearly, there is an urgent need to implement appropriate solutions to reduce the environmental and social impact of digital technology.
Today, digital technology is still too irresponsible.
One solution : responsible digital
So what is responsible digital?
Responsible digital designates digital technology that respects the environment and its users. In other words, a digital world that is sober, sustainable, ecological and inclusive of all populations, while genuinely serving them.
On the one hand, Responsible Digital encompasses all approaches aimed at improving the environmental and social footprint of digital technology (Green IT), and on the other hand, improving the environmental and social footprint through digital technology (IT for green).
Le Green IT désigne l’ensemble des technologies et outils qui permettent aux entreprises de diminuer l’impact environnemental de leur industrie numérique.
Le It for Green désigne les démarches mises en place grâce au numérique dans le but de sensibiliser et réduire l’empreinte écologique d’un appareil.
Green AI and AI for Green
Artificial intelligence, as a major energy consumer and CO2 emitter, must crucially become responsible.
Green AI is possible
The trend is towards high-performance models such as Deep Learning, whose applications are greatly improving everyday life, with image and voice recognition in particular. However, the more elaborate the models, the more input data, computing power and training they require. Switching to green artificial intelligence means raising the awareness of all those involved in AI design, and opting for the best possible alternatives to reduce environmental impact.
Optimizing AI execution frequency
Optimization of machine learning tasks
Choosing less energy-intensive data centers
Favoring Edge Computing
Improved data management: define why we store data, and for how long? Is it really useful?
AI for green
Green AI is undeniably possible, and in line with the IT for Green approach, it can also help reduce environmental problems.
AI, a solution to the climate crisis
Par exemple, certaines IA peuvent être entrainées afin de prédire les émissions de CO2 et la consommation d’électricité, permettant de réduire l’empreinte carbone. Dans cette continuité, l’IA peut aussi être utilisée pour mesurer l’élévation du niveau de la mer, détecter la présence de plastique dans les océans et contribuer à la sauvegarde des coraux.
So to speak, AI has a wide range of possible uses in our society, in sectors as diverse as agriculture, healthcare, geothermal energy and aviation, making them more responsible and greener.
Levers and tools for digital responsibilit
To support this transition to responsible digital services, a number of tools and means of action to be adopted on a daily basis are being shared and implemented.
For example, the Institut du Numérique Responsable INR has published a reference guide (#GR491), divided into 8 families and offering 57 recommendations for the design of responsible digital services.
Reduce carbon footprint
Limit, compress and adapt image and video formats
Limit the number of fonts used
Limit Mail exchanges and delete them regularly
Limit cloud computing
Choose a responsible web host
Optimize and better manage our data
Reducing the impact of our equipment
Implement a responsible purchasing policy by offering reconditioned terminals
Manage the end-of-life of our equipment by recycling or second-hand sales
Optimize device lifespan and avoid digital obsolescence
Reduce the impact of visuals
Limit visual animations
Avoid image, color and contrast overload
Compress static content
Avoid information overlay
Avoid automatically triggering video content
Opt for simple, optimized designs
Ask the right questions and make the right decisions
- Useful: Does the feature meet an initial need?
- Usable: Is the functionality well explained, understandable and perceptible?
- Used: Is the feature actually used?
- Recycle what we can no longer use
- Refuse what we don’t need
- Reduce what we need
- Reuse what we use
- Reform what we can
Ultimately, responsible digital technology is accessible and offers multiple benefits, such as reduced environmental impact, lower manufacturing costs, inclusion of all populations, and the possibility of benefiting from innovative technologies that are truly adapted to needs.
Clearly, the situation concerns everyone, and everyone can do something about it.
Digital responsibility is here and now.