Sustainability – the ultimate ICT purpose?

Fruit market

During the last years there has been a growing interest in using technology and ICT services to make people and organizations aware of alternative ways of looking upon their practices, and thereby inspire them to change behavior (a topic that my colleague Anna wrote about in a previous blog post). One of the main themes has been to support a development towards a more sustainable society – ecologically, socially, and economically.

When addressing the meaningful aspects of peoples’ interactions with technology, it is important to not only view things from an individual perspective but also from the society perspective. And what can be more meaningful than helping people to create a better life without jeopardizing future generations' chances of a good life? Long, happy, and meaningful lives for as many as possible without overshooting the ecological limits as the Happy Planet Index puts it. The two perspectives are of course very much related and should preferrably interplay; peoples’ needs and desires is something that often drives change.

Nevertheless, creating a better world is far from easy and will require shifts in values and behaviors on many levels in society. But digital services (and good user experiences) can be one very important contributor, for example, to help people and organizations think about the future in a more positive way, to encourage them to take action, or to give them opportunities to explore and understand alternatives. We already see many good examples; people empowered by services helping them to find fragmented work tasks and be paid through mobile money solutions, collaborative consumption services making more efficient use of physical objects and at the same time building stronger communities, new business models being based upon a combination of global knowledge sharing and deep contextual connections, and so on.

I got a bit excited with the introduction there; back to what was intended as the main topic of this post. The opportunity to use technology for good purposes is the main reason why we are engaged in a collaboration with CESC (Centre for Sustainable Communications). The centre provides a forum for knowledge exchange between industry, the public sector and research groups. Together with its partners, CESC conducts research on ICT for sustainability aiming to contribute to a positive change. Last week I participated in the kick off for the next phase of the collaboration, during which we had a number of workshops in order to scope the planned activities. One of the things I found very promising is that the already strong theoretical profile of CESC now has been complemented with a few more design-oriented groups, such as Interactive Institute and Green Leap. Several of the projects starting up will (to our satisfaction) do more research through making, and aim at tangible concepts, visualizations, and prototypes that people can relate to in different ways.

We are therefore looking forward to the explorations that will be made at CESC, and hope to become even better friends with them and their partners along the way. This collaboration will surely help us to better understand how we can create technology, products and services that are truly meaningful for both individuals and society as a whole.

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