What is digital sustainability, and what are its challenges?

Every technological advance we witness is (or should be) a small step on our way to improving people’s quality of...

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What is digital sustainability, and what are its challenges?

Every technological advance we witness is (or should be) a small step on our way to improving people’s quality of life. But in this long-distance race, we must not forget that every technological advance comes with a responsibility towards society and our planet: what we know as digital sustainability.

At Smowltech, we consider ourselves digital optimists, and we believe that the vast majority of members of the edtech industry are very aware of sustainable digitization in each of their projects. 

We are sure that this is also the case in your institution or company. Or at least it is partly so. 

To better understand this concept, we have prepared a post in which we will define digital sustainability and the challenges we all will face.

What is digital sustainability?

We understand digital sustainability as the responsible adoption and use of digital technology to impact society and the environment in the long term positively.

This includes considering energy efficiency, sustainability in producing and disposing of electronic devices, and minimizing digital waste, among other factors. It also encompasses the ethical and responsible use of data and technology to protect the privacy and promote a fair digital economy.

Digital transformation and sustainability: What challenges are there?

Is digital transformation sustainable? To answer this question, we should analyze all the factors deeply. 

Digitalization and taking care of the environment must always go hand in hand, especially in sectors like education and certification. We can create future consumers and professionals who share these values by setting an example.

Digital transformation and sustainability

However, digitalization faces more challenges than just respecting the environment. It also faces the challenge of addressing inequalities and improving access to education.

Here are the main challenges of digital sustainability.

Energy efficiency

Digital technologies consume many energy and natural resources (including servers, devices, and networks), contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. 

To address this challenge, efficiency must be promoted at every digital technology life cycle stage, from production to disposal. This includes using more efficient and sustainable technologies, materials, and infrastructure.

Adopting renewable energy sources and transitioning to a low-carbon economy is also essential to reduce digital technology’s carbon footprint.

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Rapid obsolescence and short life cycle of some tech devices lead to large amounts of electronic waste. Many contain toxic materials and are not correctly dispatched, posing severe threats to the environment and human health. 

To face it, sustainability in the life cycle of electronic devices must be promoted, including using more sustainable and recyclable materials, extending device life, and promoting recycling and reuse. 

Companies and consumers must be sensitized about responsible disposal and adopting sustainable practices in the industry.

Ethical data protection

Digital technology can significantly impact privacy, security, and human rights. For example, massive use of personal data and AI can create inequalities and result in discrimination and exclusion of certain groups. 

Ethics and responsibility in digital technology must be promoted, including adopting ethical standards and practices in technology development and use (such as the GDPR in Europe), and respecting human rights and privacy in data handling.

Fair economy and accessibility

Despite technological advances, a digital divide still limits access to technology and information for many people worldwide, including those in rural, poor, and marginalized areas. 

Digital inclusion and ensuring equal access to technology and information must be promoted to face it right. This includes investing in infrastructure, improving internet access and digital skills, and creating accessible content in different languages and formats.

These challenges require a long-term commitment from all stakeholders, including tech organizations, users, and regulators. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, discussed in this post, are a good foundation for building this future.

Digital transformation and sustainability: What challenges are there?

Digital and sustainable transformation: what steps should we take?

To achieve the goals mentioned above and overcome challenges, entities in the technology sector like ours should take steps to enable sustainable digital modernization.

  1. Environmental impact assessment: Before adopting or implementing new technologies, it is essential to evaluate the ecological impact and consider whether there are more sustainable options.
  1. Sustainable infrastructure: As seen in the challenges section, technological infrastructure must be built and maintained sustainably, using renewable energy and recyclable materials, among others.
  1. Social and ethical responsibility: Technology providers and users must assume social and moral responsibility for their digital footprint and promote ethical practices and respect for human rights.
  1. Equitable access: Measures must be taken to ensure equitable access to technology and information.
  1. Active participation: As mentioned earlier, all stakeholders, including technology providers, users, and regulators, must actively participate in decision-making related to technology and ensure a sustainable approach.
  1. Education and awareness: It is crucial to promote education and understand the importance of digital sustainability and how individuals can contribute to achieving it.
  1. Policies and regulations: Policies and regulations should establish a solid framework for digital sustainability, including protecting human rights and privacy.

At Smowltech, we consider each of these points when creating the different SMOWL proctoring tools. So much so that we invite you to try a free demo to see how it can adapt to the formative reality of your institution or company, always from a sustainable perspective.

Download now!

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