This research study has offered and in-depth study of the impact of Cloud Computing on sustainable business practices and has effectively examined the fact that whether organizations are able to achieve business benefits as an outcome. Particularly, the study analyses and critically assesses whether adopting a cloud computing model as part of a Green ICT strategy can actually achieve sustainability benefits as well as gaining operational efficiencies and cost reduction.
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The study discusses that Information and communication technology (ICT) has increasingly become a powerful social and economical trend, with time. It has left its mark on the business landscape of the twenty first century. With a detailed background of ICTs, the paper has successfully illustrated as to how computer devices like monitors, keyboards, printers, laptops, etc need extensive power and energy, and in this context ICT has become an integral and vital part of the modern workplace and has transformed organizations to compete in the digital revolution (European Commission 2010).
The study has followed an inductive approach since the focus was laid on the understanding of the meanings attached to events. There is, however, less concern with the need to generalize as the way of carrying out the research has influenced the research outcomes.
Since several research strategies exist for different types of research work, such as experiments, surveys, case studies, action research, grounded theory, archival and ethnography, etc. this research project has selected the case study method. The research project involves an empirical investigation of a contemporary phenomenon in real life context using multiple sources of evidences. This research work has adopted a single case study approach for a typical government department as discussed in the previous sections. The case studies involved are based on exploratory research done with the help of publicly available information for understanding what processes they have implemented as well as the success they have achieved. Furthermore, the case studies involved a limited quantity of archival research to understand how, in case previous projects have been finished and the metrics that were used to quantify the success of these (BIAC 2009) (Quat & Fai 2009).
In this context, the research has also used the Multi-method qualitative study because it involves informal as well as structured interviews and archival research. The research project is a cross-sectional study as it studies the research problem as a snapshot, i.e. study of a particular phenomenon at a particular time. Data is obtained through surveys and interviews available from public sources across the Internet.
Findings & Discussion:
Several green measures have been implemented in practice. Organizations strongly believe that Green ICT will highly benefit government, together with ICT and non-ICT industries alike, in heightening effectiveness and sustainability. The research paper illustrated some specific green ICT initiatives undertaken by government. These are:
Employing energy-efficient air-cooling systems in and around the Central Computer Centre
Proclaiming the practice guide on Green Management to departments and offices for their adoption and detailed reference
Adhering to the applicable green procurement guidelines to introduce energy efficiency requirements and appropriate environmental considerations in securing IT products and services (Quat & Fai 2009)
Hosting public awareness programmes to impart knowledge on the need to reuse as well as re-cycle waste computers and several other electrical appliances
Bringing forth e-book and e-learning initiatives that help in reducing paper usage and offer opportunities for overall industry development
Making use of technologies of mobile, video-conferencing and telepresence and remote collaboration tools in order to cut down the need for physical business travels.
Influencing and encouraging the development of intelligent transport and car navigation systems, fleet management systems, etc for transportation optimization for reducing fuel consumption and emission, and lastly,
Urging the application of planning and resource management systems in order to optimize collection and disposal of waste. Further, location based technologies such as RFID and global positioning system (GPS), and image processing applications can help in locating and handling waste (BIAC 2009).
Organizations have declared that they will embrace Green ICT as a government IT strategy and particularly to make constant changes and enhancements to their existing IT infrastructure and facilities.
Green ICT as a cure for today’s economic crisis:
The study has offered detailed knowledge about what Green ICT is. It explains that Green ICT attempts to enhance the initiation and utilization of information and communications technologies, services and products which are capable of cutting down energy and resources, optimizing operational efficiency and gain savings while meeting the needs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Say, for example, considerable operational costs can be decreased from energy conservation for ICT benefits such as centres for data processing and network operation, internet exchange junctions, and other ICT facilities, since energy consumption price alone is recorded to be as much as 50% of their operating costs. It can be stated that greener ICT technologies, services or products will certainly become traditional with increase in global concerns on climate change and deterioration in environment (BIAC 2009) (Molla et al 2010).
Green ICT Reduces Costs:
With various methodologies adopted to determine the importance of Green ICT, this study was able to illustrate that ICT is virtually omnipresent in the business world. Virtually, there is no product or service that does not depend on ICT in some manner for its production, development, distribution or commercialization. However, while ICT equipment causes consumption of energy, Green ICT is proven to be an integral part of the solution to assist in reducing energy cost of an operation, not just inside the ICT industry itself, but also for other sectors of the economy which count on ICT. This is especially essential now that there is growing pressure on majority of industries and businesses to cut costs (O’Neil 2010). A US company, for instance, expert in high performance networking anticipated that employing virtualization technology can help them become less dependable on some 325 servers at their data centres, thereby leading to a reduction of almost 1278 Megawatt per hour every year. Reducing energy consumption and the ensuing costs savings associated with Green ICT may leave many firms with much more resources to be used for other crucial ICT initiatives. Hence, Green ICT can help make a broad array of local businesses more agile and responsive for competing in the global economy (European Commission 2010). A good example of this is Hong Kong’s ICT and is linked industries which have a wealth of skills that are capable of making a real difference and gain recognition and success in developing ICT-based green innovations.
Green ICT gives opportunities:
Greater demands for ICT-driven innovations, which are able to reduce energy and materials used whilst enhancing the efficiency of business systems, can generate global opportunities for a company’s business and professionals. These innovations include software applications, such as virtualization technology to implement power savings, and hardware applications, such as server with energy-saving properties. For instance, Hong Kong’s ICT and its closely linked industries possess a wealth of skills which can actually make a major difference and gain recognition and achieve success in developing ICT-driven green innovations. Furthermore, essential infrastructure and mechanisms for incubation must be in place for the industry in order to capitalize on the increasingly expanding global market for ICT-based solutions planned for improving the energy efficiency as well as tackling the climate change concerns (BIAC 2009) (O’Neil 2010).
Green ICT heightens environmental benefits:
The research study could determine that apart from the economic benefits, adopting Green ICT practices in business operations can easily deal with climate change issues that are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it also described that Green ICT can play a crucial role in helping to promote the low carbon economy around the world. The ICT industry can also produce a green image while behaving as a responsible global citizen (Bibri 2009) (Molla et al 2010).
Government as a Green ICT user:
After progressively studying social and economic trend set by the information and communication technology, this research study goes on to prove that how the Government is one of the primary users of ICT and has a substantial impact on the health of the ICT industry. In other words, as a prime influencer one believes that the Government takes the leading role in embracing Green ICT technologies and quantifies for improving its operational efficiency along with encouraging an environmentally aware and sustainable culture to the society. In order further motivate government involvement and to develop Green ICT strategy plans for addressing environmental impacts that accompany the usage of ICT services and products, the study recommends that it is essential for the Government to establish close collaboration with the ICT industry (European Commission 2010). Moreover, it recommends the following areas to be considered as starting points for the Government for exploring more opportunities for the smooth implementation of Green ICT:
Implementing standards and policies which influence the use of Green ICT technologies as well as practices.
Deploying Government-wide Green ICT audit is essential to realize opportunities for bettering resource and energy efficiencies when reducing greenhouse gas emissions of ICT within Government operations, specifically in ICT-intensive facilities like Government data centres.
Speeding up the upgrade of orthodox and traditional ICT equipment and systems in the Government to Green ICT substitutes offered by local ICT industry
Taking the lead in utilizing ICT-based innovations which may help increase energy efficiencies and reduce resources as a role model for the remaining business sectors (Molla et al 2010).
The research paper supported the development of Green ICT innovations by drawing out the following assertions (Barker 2007).
ICT professionals associated with the industry identify that technologies can be best utilized as an effective tool primarily for improving operational effectiveness and resolving environmental sustainability issues. As such, the ICT industry can be urged to come up with more innovative Green ICT solutions and technologies to best fulfil the rapidly growing market needs and demands. The study could advocate that the in order for the Government to offer support to foster the development of Green ICT innovations, a specific pre-decided budget must be allocated out of the current Innovation and Technology Fund distributed by the Innovation and Technology Commission as well as the Environment and Conservation Fund primarily administered by the Environmental Campaign Committee for supporting Green ICT research and development. Also, it is necessary to establish a robust mechanism for recognizing or certifying ICT products and services that accomplish prescribed green standards. Maximizing use of Green ICT in local business is highly encouraged .
Establishing market for Green ICT services or products is the most important consideration in making Green ICT blossom locally. A Government must establish a Green ICT Technology Platform that involves the organization of Green ICT Database and workshops, and so forth in order to allow local businesses to gain more opportunities in employing the Green ICT solutions. Funding or subsidies must be offered for SMEs in order to engage professionals in carrying out Green ICT audit for identifying opportunities for both costs saving as well as reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, funding, subsidies or loans must be provided for SMEs in order to adopt Green ICTT systems and upgrade their orthodox systems to Green ICT alternatives. In addition to this, even a pilot programme can be financed for various businesses to adopt Green ICT technologies as representation cases (European Commission 2010) (O’Neil 2010).
An excellent demonstration of how locally developed Green ICT can be exported, is given by this study. Global market for ICT industry or ICT-based solutions to the climate change matters is growing at a rather fast pace. Local ICT industry must not fall behind and combat against their counterparts elsewhere in the world. Since Green ICT technologies on energy management of processes and systems can be extensively applied over virtually every type of business sector, the global market is potentially massive The study recommends the government to establish a mechanism to channel Green ICT technologies or solutions that are locally developed to potential global clients or users with consolidation of efforts from all government departments concerned. Enrichment of Green ICT capability can be gained for ICT professionals. In other words, it can be elaborated that ICT professionals must be supplied with a better understanding of the connection between ICT activities as well as environmental issues. Further, they must also be equipped with appropriate tools and the assurance to be the real drivers of designing ICT technologies, equipment, algorithms, and services which are more resource efficient and environment friendly (Australian Computer Society 2009) (Quat & Fai 2009).
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Indeed, the paper is supported by evidences that are derived from exhaustive research on how governments support initiatives to adopt Green ICT. These initiatives include facilitating and provision of support to, the ICT community for setting up a Green ICT consortium for professionals as an attempt to promote the adoption of Green ICT and also be a part of the current wave of creating a local Green ICT trends and culture. Secondly, the initiative emphasizes on the need to partner with the ICT industry in order to organize Green ICT seminars as well as conferences to produce awareness of Green ICT. Next, focus is set on encouragement that must be given in the development of professional training programmes as well as offering recognized qualifications to Green ICT professionals. By doing so, Green ICT contents are also strengthened in local ICT education to satisfy the need of the future (Bibri 2009) (James & Hopkinson 2009).
Through a careful literature review of the research conducted in the past by researchers and experts, the current study was able to provide an increased understanding in the Green ICT are and successfully analyzes and assesses Sustainable Business Practice associated with Cloud computing. It has further investigated whether implementing a cloud computing policy will enable tangible business advantages aligned with wider Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER) activities, which enabled equipping ICT managers with opportunities to enhance operational excellence and optimize technology that is inherent to the business strategies and ICT infrastructure operations (Barker 2007).
The paper suggests ICT as a very apt example of an innovative technology which allows for green growth. Information & communication technology and the Internet provide heightened efficiency and productivity in manufacturing, offering services and in working methods. In essence, they help in reducing energy consumption and handle scarce resources. And both “greening of the ICT” and “greening by the ICT” are exceedingly crucial in this respect. With such a motive backing the study, it is essential to understand that governments must continue to guarantee policy and regulatory environments which offer rigid support to innovations in ICT technologies and endless capital investment in the telecommunications industry and infrastructure, like broadband and high speed networks, essential to affirm and green ICT application throughout all sectors of the economy (Bibri 2009).
A number of tangible business benefits are associated with Green ICT strategies for the organization. These include:
Superior business performance with the help of a highly motivated workforce which fully support the need for a Green ICT strategy
Effectiveness and efficiency of processes
Establishment of smart and wise business strategies in line with views that are depicted widely for the reduction of carbon emissions.
Yet another concept of virtualization of the infrastructure is illustrated in the study that supports the business helps in streamlining and automating the business processes by reducing the amount of physical devices which require support. Consequently, this leads to the development of robust as well as dynamic initiatives that can be utilized for the success of the organization. As a result of these processes, organizational productivity and outcome are greatly improved. Extending the energy star rating program for every ICT product will enable businesses to accurately compare the energy consumption of ICT products and take the best decisions with respect to reducing energy use as well as costs for both households and businesses (James & Hopkinson 2009). Therefore, this would allow for the entire government ICT energy consumption target and reporting systems to be benchmarked while determining energy intensity measures (Janakiraman 2009).
The designed introduction of technologies such as Web 2.0 systems throughout all tiers of the government will act as a catalyst of change in present-day public sector workforce practices, together with the way in which government departments communicate with each other as well as with citizens and stakeholders. With the addition of democratic and interactive technologies through Web 2.0, the sharing of information between sites has increasingly become a necessity, which entails that websites must be capable of generating output in machine-readable formats. Furthermore, in order to ensure these benefits are obtained, government agencies must starting making necessary amendments by re-educating existing employees to acquire new ways of implementing tasks via online engagement. And this can also indicate introduction of work-from-home practices, using teleconferencing technologies, and mobile work platforms in order to reduce business travel to a great extent. All of these measures will, in turn, have substantial impact on the amount of energy use and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions originating from government agency activities, specifically when they are exhaustively applied on a the entire government (Barker 2007).
Sustainable computing practices have progressively become a vital part of the professional tasks of all ICT professionals. Such responsibilities tend to assist in reducing costs throughout agencies by encouraging reduction in energy consumption, the creation of suitable product stewardship and e-waste plans, and increased awareness for the moderation of carbon emissions with the help of latest and most energy efficient technologies (Bibri 2009). In essence, one of the measures Government must take for optimizing the ICT energy consumption is to decrease the amount of servers in an agency’s data centre by employing virtualization and cloud computing technologies. With data centres emerging to be prime power users, data storage needs are creating a significant increase in data centre construction. Moreover, the powerful servers now housed in data centres often demand as much cooling power as the electrical energy required to run them. As data centres mostly emit wastages through surplus hardware, memory, power supplies and network devices, government organizations need to control the wastage of energy in an accurate manner. One such way is to mature ICT assets, together with the need to harness energy use, and this indicates that today’s organizations are being forced to embrace innovative strategies into their business plans in order to limit their data centre operational costs (James & Hopkinson 2009). Again, virtualization and cloud computing are able to help in significantly improving sustainability performance for public sector organizations. Since cloud computing is a modern way of sourcing and delivering ICT services through the Internet on a pay-as-you-go basis, it offers a feasible alternative to build ICT infrastructure as well as application for workloads. Moreover, the combination of virtualization and cloud computing is able to reduce the requirement of expanding an agency’s electronic storage demands. And the power requirements for running and cooling data centres now formulate as much as a quarter of global ICT carbon dioxide emissions. Besides, server virtualization reduces power consumption by enabling firms to operate multiple “virtual” machines across a single physical server. As different virtual machines may run different operating systems and multiple applications over the same physical computer, it eliminates the current problem of under-usage of storage space within data centres, and thereby improving data centre efficiency (Barker 2007) (Quat & Fai 2009).
Apart from reusing infrastructure, organizations considered recycling the rest of the infrastructure which cannot be reused. In order to enable more efficient recycling, organizations will only produce electrical products that are designed in a way to be easily disassembled to the basic component level, by using common tools. Hence, the ultimate aim of an organization must be to ensure that no waste in the electronic form has been disposed off in a landfill site.
Very large scale organizations having more than 500 employees had relatively well-formulated capability in all the ICT components. Those engaged in hardware manufacture, wholesaling, as well as maintenance, were inclined towards performing better in comparison to other ICT sub-sectors.
Majority of ICT firms are progressing towards clearer strategic direction regarding the opportunities linked to climate change. While 39 percent of firms reported that they had a highly transparent strategy for enabling the eco-sustainability of other industries, other 38 percent stated they had an emerging clarity, and only 23 percent of the participants either remained doubtful or inactive about the need to develop a sustainability vision.
Surveyed firms declared having relatively well established processes for the usage and optimization of ICT resources, like servers, applications, networks, data storage systems, office and telephony systems, etc. Additionally, 29 percent of firms displayed maturity in the practice of disposing electronic and non-electronic wastages in an eco-friendly fashion. However, some of the firms introduce eco-sustainability design principles like less wastage, low energy utilization, less use of toxic chemicals, and more use of recyclable, renewable and reusable systems, etc at the early stages of product design and development (Janakiraman 2009).
Out of the surveyed firms, 75 percent of the firms have not yet acquired any third party certification about their environmental performance.
ICT solutions enabling employees to work remotely, like video-conferencing, telecommuting, and telepresence have been the most matured offerings in the global ICT sector. And such solutions/ applications are very well settled in 32 percent of the firms surveyed and these firms are operating to maintain and amend the value contribution from their offerings. Another 32percent indicated that their product category is associated with market visibility and it is a source of revenue, while 21 percent of the respondents informed no plans of offering such products (O’Neil 2010).
The reviewed firms demonstrated a promising portfolio of development along with initial offering of product groupings. For instance, over one-third of companies have either offered solutions for or have assigned resources for development of energy use monitoring and reporting systems, remote power management, pollution control systems, etc. Furthermore, an equal ratio of companies is also reforming their current business strategies to allow for Green ICT strategic consulting, education, training, and research (Australian Computer Society 2009).
More than 40 percent of firms have identified the brand value of Greenness. These firms are also at an advanced level in using Green ICT in their marketing strategy. Use of Greenness as a marketing strategy must not always be understood as “Green-washing”; almost all companies which use Greenness as one of their marketing strategy employ it to add to their other value propositions like price, quality, service, etc. By doing so, these firms are not only re-branding their current products with Greenness, but also are offering initial or mature solutions which may improve the overall environmental performance of their clients and customers (Janakiraman 2009).
It can be noted that firms perform comparatively better as indicators of value identification rather than as value measurement. As an example, 35 percent of respondents felt that their Green ICT products offer them with bigger competitive edge, and other 9 percent claim that Green ICT products aid them in achieving a moderate growth in competitive performance. Further 32 percent of surveyed firms conformed that they obtained higher cost and environmental footprint decrease from their Green ICT initiatives. However, approximately 40 percent of respondents believed that their Green ICT products heighten their revenue, and the last 29 percent said that the improvement is substantial.
Again, 69 percent of respondents felt the need to be authorized as a concerned part of global as well as local communities and vision of senior management as two primary drivers to invest in Green ICT products and service growth.
Most importantly, the key element accounted for inhibiting the adoption of Green ICT was that it is not considered as a priority, leading the lack of demand and funds (Bibri 2009) (Janakiraman 2009).
Encouraging innovation in Green ICT will not only generate a significant reduction in the ICT sector’s carbon footprint, but will also enact a crucial role in decreasing emissions across every sector of the economy. Moreover, ICT-based solutions will be the primary element in reducing carbon emissions and enhance an organization’s international competitiveness. It could also give rise to global opportunities for ICI professionals and businesses (James & Hopkinson 2009).
Green growth which is welfare-enhancing must be realized as a prime objective by every part of the society, including governments, customers, stakeholders and overall business in general. However, it must be considered in total isolation, where it needs to address issues like investments, innovations, market openness, employee skills development/ entrepreneurship, prolonged job creation and the growth of metrics for supporting analysis of such issues along with being able to evaluate progress. Recognizing the potential of strategies for green growth across sectors can only be achieved if businesses adopt the most accurate investment framework, urge innovation, maintain market openness, discard market distortions, advance human skills and capital, and offer an overall capable and stable policy structure (Bibri 2009). Green ICT is considered to be one of the most efficient and highly effective strategies not only for the ICT market but also for virtually all business and economy sectors in order to enhance operational efficiencies to maintain market competitiveness. Together with the supply of necessary infrastructure as well as incubatory support, the local ICT sector will be enabled to grow in parallel to the global trend and turn towards becoming an active part of the vanguard in influencing the future of a greener and carbon-free business world (O’Neil 2010).
The literature review of the study gives an increased apprehension in the Green ICT area and analyzes Sustainable Business Practice linked to Cloud Computing. It has further looked into whether implementing a cloud computing policy will potentially enable tangible business benefits in line with wider Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility activities, as a result of which ICT managers are armed with opportunities to improve operational excellence and optimize technology that is underlying the business strategies and ICT infrastructure operations (Australian Computer Society 2009).
The result of the research study points out that firms within the ICT sector are developing clearer strategic directions regarding their business opportunities in order to enable the eco-sustainability of other industries. Few companies could develop genuine value propositions aimed at improving the sustainability, both ecological as well as economical, of their customers by delivering products and services that resolve customer’s current problems.
The study successfully determined the scope and richness of sustainability, as well as explored the relevance, motivators and inhibitors of cloud computing with respect to a sustainability initiative. In general, it describes that issues on how to achieve cost savings and sustainability among the organization can be addressed at early stages of maturity. Although there are signs of sustainability implementations in terms of coverage, across government at present, however, whether this is being used for driving cost saving initiatives is yet unclear (James & Hopkinson 2009).
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