WSIS PREP-COM-2 Contribution (Paper)


Role: co-author with Chris Tuppen,

This was the first attempt at trying to change an international framework and I was surprised to learn how willing policy makers were to acknowledge the potential for ICT to deliver significant contributions (and this was many years before we saw the kind of major impacts that we are used to now). I also explored the gaps between internatinal commettments and national implementation.  

This contribution puts forward a series of issues that should be reflected in the WSIS summit Declaration and Plan of Action.

Increasing population, economic activity and consumptive lifestyles are placing unsustainable burdens on the earth's natural systems and finite resources. Creating prosperity through much less wasteful and harmful use of resources has been identified as the over-arching sustainable development challenge.

Enhanced connectivity enables people to transact businesses from home, saving commuting time, energy and pollution from transportation. Trends in ICT towards miniaturization of components, and its capacity to monitor resource and energy use through production processes, can greatly reduce environmental and economic costs. Mobile networks are allowing whole phases of 'hard-wired' infrastructure development to be 'leapfrogged' in many parts of the world."1

We suggest that it is essential for the WSIS to consider the Sustainability Implications of the Knowledge Society. In particular we suggest that the environmental dimension has not yet been given sufficient weight alongside the social and economic dimensions.

This proposal is therefore for sustainable development to be explicitly included in the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action to be adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society

The key elements of this contribution to WSIS address the following themes:

  •  Sustainability Implications of the Knowledge Society (new theme)

  • International Cooperation

  • Opening the Gates and Overcoming the Digital Divide

  • Services and Applications

Link to contribution

Sustainability at the Speed of Light (Book)


Role: author/editor

After the climate meeting in Kyoto and assessing other sustainability trends it became clear that more than incremental improvements are needed.  The technology and sector that I thought was best positioned to deliver this sustainable disruption was the ICT sector.

After a few years of trying to get governments, companies (outside the ICT sector) and NGOs to understand the potential of digitalisation without much success I decided to put the ideas together in a book to make a very complicated issue easier to access. It was interesting as most people agreed that it was important, but very few felt they could do anything. So the five years after the book I focused on integrating an ICT aspect in all strategies and processes that I thought were important. There are many interesting stories around the process, and I learned a lot about how different people approach change and new ideas.  

First two sentences
For the past few years, information technology and the so-called new economy have been intensely discussed. Many different views exist, but there is no doubt that over the next couple of years information and communication technologies (ICT) will come to affect and reshape most parts of our society. Whether we like it or not, ICT will radically influence transport patterns, energy consumption, overall resource usage and, to an unknown degree, our culture and even the way we perceive the world, our relationship to it, and our actions as dictated by these new mores.

Although ICT will have an enormous effect on tomorrow’s society, surprisingly little research has been conducted regarding its future environmental consequences. Most of the work that has been done has reached one of two conclusions: either ICT will bring only good things, from solutions to world hunger and the elimination of all transportation problems to a revitalised democracy; or ICT will bring nothing but problems, accelerating resource consumption, introducing new toxic materials and resulting in greater inequity by introducing a digital divide that will worsen the already unequal distribution of wealth and influence.

The first challenge, if we want to tackle the challenges surrounding ICT for the future, is to go beyond this polarised perspective.

Link to the book in PDF