Sustainable Digitalization and the Role of Telecom Networks

Zakhi Mgutshini
Mar 5, 2023
Updated • Mar 5, 2023

At a time when the world is taking a greener direction, there is nothing more important than sustainability. Sustainable digitalization refers to the practice of using digital technologies in a way that is environmentally friendly,  socially responsible, and economically viable. It involves the use of digital technologies to create processes, store, and share information and resources in a way that reduces negative environmental impacts, supports economic development, and promotes social equity. 

Sustainable Digitalization and the Role of Telecom Networks

Recently an all-female panel moderated by Charlotte Kan was entitled “Sustainability in Practice:  a catalyst for change in your business and the world” where she had Jenny Panhorst from Intel Corporation,  Sue Preston from Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Justine Rowe of Telstra, and Alexandra Foster from BT Division X discuss the importance of sustainability within the wider ecosystem and telecom.  Here are a few takeaways that I managed to get from the panel discussion.

Current Challenges the Industry is Facing 

  • Sustainability and telecom networks face several challenges, including: 
  • Energy consumption
  • E-waste
  • Infrastructure deployment
  • Supply chain sustainability

Examples of Sustainable Digitalization Practices and Innovative Solutions 

Alexandra Foster of BT Division X mentioned the importance of collaborations when it comes to sustainability. She mentions that most of the things they've managed to achieve as a company were because of all the great collaborations they’ve made. Here are a few sustainable digitalization practices: 

  • Energy efficiency. The use of energy-efficient software and hardware is essential to consume less power and generate less heat.
  • Cloud computing. Adopting cloud computing reduces the need for physical infrastructure and promotes resource sharing.
  • Paperless operations. Implementing paperless operations through digital documents and electronic signatures reduces the use of paper and waste.
  • Circular economy.  A circular economy promotes the reusing,  repurposing, and recycling of digital resources and equipment. 
  • Digital accessibility. Ensuring that digital technologies are accessible to all users, including those with limited internet access and disabilities. 
  • Social responsibility. It is the responsibility of telecom companies and individuals to consider the social impact of digitalization, such as security,  privacy, and data protection.
  • Green IT procurement. This means selecting eco-friendly and sustainable digital products and services such as renewable energy power data centers and energy-efficient hardware for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Sustainable Digitalization and the Role of Telecom Networks

Importance of Sustainability Within the Telecom Industry and the Wider Ecosystem

Telecom networks play a critical role in sustainable digitalization. These networks provide the connectivity and infrastructure that enables the transfer of digital data. This is essential when it comes to sustainable digitalization. Here are some specific activities performed by telecom networks in sustainable digitalization.

  1. Enabling connectivity. Telecom networks provide the connectivity that enables digital communication and collaborations, including teleconferencing,  online collaboration tools, and video conferencing.
  2. Providing energy-efficient technologies: Telecom networks are increasing the use of energy-efficient technologies through energy-efficient software and hardware to reduce their carbon footprint.
  3. Supporting the circular economy. Telecom networks are promoting reuse, repurposing, and recycling. BT has done a lot of mobile recycling, according to Alexandra Foster. 
  4. Provisioning access to underserved communities
  5. Supporting digital transformation. Alexandra speaks of the handprint effect by incorporating renewables through substation virtualization and automation. 



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