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4 Apr, 2012

Blitz in Telecoms Usage Projected To Reduce Business, MICE Travel

Geneva, 2 April 2012 – Broadband can help transition the world towards a low carbon-economy and address the causes and effects of climate change, according to a new report by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

The Broadband Bridge: Linking ICT with Climate Action makes a number of clear suggestions on how the growing power and speed of broadband can be used to lower corporate and MICE travel, yielding multiple advantages for costs, stress-factors, time, productivity and quality of life.

Says Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General, International Telecommunications Union,, “Addressing climate change implies completely transforming our way of life, the way we work, the way we travel, shifting our model of development to a fairer, more sustainable model to ensure our survival. As more and more countries adopt national broadband plans – already there are more than eighty – we will be able to reduce emissions across various different sectors of the economy.

“In the last decade we have seen several sectors being dramatically transformed by ICT, including transportation, e-commerce and multimedia . We need to put at stake all the resources available to us, and mobilize the political will to turn discussions and negotiations into agreements and actions.”

The report is the result of work conducted by the Broadband Commission Working Group on Climate Change, chaired by Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson and comprising several members of the Commission, representing industry, international organizations, and NGOs.

The report aims to raise awareness of the pivotal role information and communication technology (ICT), and particularly broadband networks, can play in helping creating a low carbon economy of the future, and highlights the importance of public private partnerships in accelerating change. It is based on interviews, case studies and supporting material from more than 20 leaders and experts in the field.

Building on the agreements achieved at the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-17), the report emphasizes the kind of transformative solutions that are enabled by broadband. It provides practical examples of how broadband can contribute to reducing greenhouse gasses (GHGs), mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, and promoting resource efficiency, while at the same time building more prosperous and inclusive societies.

“The understanding of the benefits that broadband can bring is at a global tipping point. Its role in GDP growth, in enabling the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and offsetting the effects of climate change is just now starting to be understood, because finally the deployment is there and the benefits can be realized. In today’s economic climate, societies need to develop, and with a solutions-driven approach to climate change, we can accelerate a new type of green growth while supporting global sustainable development goals,” said Hans Vestberg.

Last year UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stressed the importance of harnessing ICTs to improve the lives of people worldwide. In a message to the fourth meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in Geneva in October 2011, he said: “It is clear to me that information and communication technologies are transforming our world. Today, there is no part of modern life that is not affected by ICTs. With well over five billion mobile cellular subscriptions, and more than two billion people online, our challenge is to leverage the enormous power of technology to make the world a better place.”

The entire travel and transportation chain is a major target of the telecoms industry, especially because most of it is in one way or another connected to the growing urbanisation.

Says the report: “Cities stand to be at the forefront of ICT-led transformation. By 2016, over 30 percent of the world’s population are expected to live in metro and urban areas with a density of more than 1,000 people per square kilometer. These areas represent less than one percent of the Earth’s total land area, yet they are set to generate around 60 percent of mobile traffic by 2016. Applying trans-sectoral ICT-based innovation in cities can yield multiplier effects that benefit the entire economy, leading to more interconnected sustainable communities. And while countries debate national emission reduction targets, it is cities which have to implement changes to reach those targets.”

The report quotes Stephen Conroy, Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity as saying: “The introduction of the National Broadband Network will enable high-quality videoconferencing to become the norm, reducing the need to travel to meetings. This in turn will reduce GHG emissions caused by traffic congestion. Reliable, high-speed broadband delivered by the National Broadband Network will make the uptake of teleworking a possibility for more Australians but cultural issues on the part of both employers and employees remain a barrier to teleworking.”

The report cites how, for several years, Swedish telecom operator TeliaSonera has used ICT-based smart work solutions such as teleworking, flexi-working, virtual or telepresence conferencing and flexi-office to reduce air business travel, car travel and need for office space.

TeliaSonera, together with Ericsson, measured the impact of these ICT-enabled solutions, including reductions of infrastructure over time. Using 2001 as a baseline year, the study found that by 2007: 1) Smart work initiatives reduced CO2e emissions by 40 percent per employee-over 2.8 tons of CO2e per employee per year; 2) Scaling the results to country level, the study found that similar initiatives could reduce Sweden’s total CO2e emissions by two to four percent if reductions of 20-40 percent can be achieved per employee in a 10-20 year timeframe; and 3) Scaling to a global level could potentially reduce global CO2e emissions in the same order, by two to four percent.

The report also cites a Connected Urban Development initiative (CUD) by the Climate Group and Cisco whose global pilots are designed to demonstrate transformational smart buildings, smart transportation and smart grid.

According to the report, “In one pilot, a Personal Travel Assistant allows residents in Seoul and Amsterdam to make on-the-go travel decisions based on time, cost and carbon impact, via a Web-enabled device, from any location. A methodology has been developed to measure the results in terms of reduced emissions, decreased demand for transport and increased energy efficiency of buildings, among other things. A CUD toolkit scaled the lessons learned and best practices identified as the project wrapped up at the end of 2011, after five years of pilots. A total of 10 smart tech pilots are envisioned by 2012.”

In the lead-up to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June, the report presents ten recommendations from the Broadband Commission for policymakers and global leaders to hasten and strengthen the power of ICT and broadband to accelerate global progress towards a low-carbon economy:

(+) Lead with vision: adopt a long-term National Broadband Plan/Strategy based on universal affordability and accessibility, open markets and innovation, and consciously connect this to your climate goals.

(+) Bring convergence: Bring convergence to ICT policy formulation so that it aligns with other policy areas such as energy, health, education and climate in order to maximize impact.

(+) Ensure regulatory certainty: Ensure clear regulatory rules and regulations on climate and broadband to create a framework of investment certainty.

(+) Be an example: drive cross-ministry collaboration and integrated decision-making to align climate and digital goals, and use government procurement to send the right market signals.

(+) Foster flexibility: identify and remove the regulatory and policy barriers currently hindering research and investment in 21st century ICT-based broadband-enabled infrastructure and low carbon solutions.

(+) Provide incentives: encourage uptake of low-carbon solutions and support market change by rewarding or incentivizing desired consumer behaviours. Spur innovation among individuals, companies and sectors.

(+) Build the market: fund and facilitate scalable pilots to demonstrate feasibility and effectiveness of broadband as an enabler of low-carbon solutions and build a strong business case to attract private investment.

(+) Form partnerships: cultivate connectivity and ‘co-creativity’ across public, private and non-governmental sectors and industries to help develop a collaborative mindset, shared goals and a common language, and to help break down silos.

(+) Measure and standardize: develop harmonized metrics and measurements and common standards for calculating both the environmental impacts of ICTs and the positive contribution technology can make to other sectors – from individual products to systems, and from individual households to the city and/or national levels.

(+) Share knowledge and raise awareness: actively disseminate project findings, share best practice and learn from mistakes to identify success factors and facilitate leapfrogging, especially among less developed markets. Communicate the opportunities and synergies that can be achieved through an integrated, trans-sector approach to digital development infrastructure and low carbon solutions.

Download the full version of the new report here.

Watch a video interview with Dr Hamadoun Touré and Climate Change Working Group Chairman Hans Vestberg here.