ICT Sustainability

Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

An Online Graduate Course & Book by Tom Worthington MEd, FACS CP

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These are the notes for a course in assessment and strategy for ICT sustainability. The first half of the course is on how to assess the carbon footprint of the ICT operations of an organization and also the materials used in the design, manufacture and reuse and recycling of ICT equipment. The second half covers how to develop a strategy to reduce the environmental impact of ICT operations, and through ICT of other operations.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this subject the student can:

  1. Evaluate the sustainability of IT services, devices and day-to-day operations of an organisation, including the carbon footprint and e-waste,

  2. Prepare a sustainability strategy for IT in an organisation, covering both energy and materials use.


The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA 2015) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective Information Systems (IS) making use of Information & Communications Technology (ICT).

Green ICT Strategies targets SIFA Level 5 competencies: "... Works under broad direction ... Influences organisation, customers, suppliers, partners and peers ... Performs an extensive range and variety of complex technical and/or professional work activities ... Advises on the available standards, methods, tools and applications ..." (SFIA, 2015).

Two skills have been selected, corresponding to the two learning outcomes:

Skills from SFIA

Sustainability assessment

The evaluation of the sustainability of operational or planned IT services, devices and day-to-day operations such as travel. The establishment of a model or scheme to track changes in consumption over time and to generate feedback to enable improvements in energy or resource efficiency. The identification of areas requiring attention, and the initiation of actions to change or control the procurement of energy or other resources, so as to improve sustainability.

From: Skill SUAS, Category: Business change, Subcategory: Business change management, SFIA (2015).

Sustainability strategy

The preparation of a sustainability strategy for IT, taking into account any established corporate strategy, to be used as a basis for policies and planning, and covering both consumption and sources of supply of energy and materials. Evaluation and inclusion, as appropriate, of political, legislative, economic, social and technological factors. Identification of major external standards, practices or schemes to be adopted. Consultation with identified relevant parties, either internal or external. Obtaining agreement to the strategy and the commitment to act upon it.

From: Skill SUST, Category: Strategy & architecture, Subcategory: Business/IT strategy and planning, SFIA (2015).

Pre-requisites, Co-requisites

It is assumed that the student has qualifications or experience equivalent to a university degree in ICT, or a related discipline, and is familiar with the use of the Internet, academic writing and referencing.


The course consists of two parts, corresponding to the skills, with one topic per week:

Sustainability Assessment
  1. The Politics, Science and Business of Sustainability

  2. The Global ICT Footprint

  3. Energy Saving - Data Centres and Client Equipment

  4. Materials Use

  5. Carbon Accounting

  6. Methods and Tools
Sustainability Strategy
  1. Enabling ICT

  2. Business Process Improvement

  3. Improving Data Centre Energy Efficiency

  4. Enterprise Architecture

  5. Procurement

  6. Energy Star Program and Quality Management


To complete the subject you will need to spend 8-10 hours each week reading, communicating with colleagues and tutors, and preparing assignments.

Evaluation Methods

There are two areas of assessment in the subject:

  1. Contributions to weekly discussion forums and quizzes (formative assessment), approximately one-fifth of the assessment total.

  2. Two assignments (summative assessment): one mid course and one at the end of the course (each divided into two parts), approximately four-fifths of the assessment total.

To pass the subject overall, it is necessary to pass in both areas of assessment. Note that the weighting of the assessment items and pass level is set by the particular educational institution offering the course.

Teaching Strategies

The course is divided into twelve weekly topics. The equivalent of eight printed pages of notes are provided each week. Further readings (which the notes have been prepared from) and questions for the student are also provided each week.

On-line learning is the main delivery method, moderated and supported by a tutor, mentor, student discussion forums and weekly feedback. Students are grouped in cohorts of six to twenty.

While designed for a distance education course, the materials are based on traditional lecture and tutorial formats. The notes could therefore be adapted for lectures and questions for face to face tutorials. A paper detailing the design and educational philosophy of the course is available (Worthington, 2012).

Specialist Features or Equipment

The subject is supported by a website where the online learning takes place. Learning materials plus discussion forums are available through this site. Set readings elsewhere on the web are linked from the site.

Course Designer

Tom Worthington is an independent ICT consultant and an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University, where he teaches ICT Sustainability, project management and professional ethics. He is also a member of the ANU Energy Change Institute and ANU Climate Change Institute.

In 2010 Tom received the Canberra ICT Award for Education and in 2015 a National ICT Higher Educator of the Year "Gold Digital Disruptor Award" for his green course. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. He is a past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Tom has a Masters of Education (specializing in Distance Education) from Athabasca University (Canada), a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education from the Australian National University and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment from the Canberra Institute of Technology. He blogs as the Higher Education Whisperer.


The notes for this course are published on paper and electronic formats as: "ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future" (Worthington, 2011-2016). Further readings, most of which are available on-line, are detailed in the notes. Students may be provided with a copy of the notes via a Learning Management System.

Changes from Previous Version

These notes were first published as "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions" (Worthington, 2009). Changes include:

  1. Skills descriptions: Two SFIA sustainability skills have (SUST: Sustainability strategy and SUAS: Sustainability assessment) replaced the six ICT skills specified previously.

  2. Structure: The course has been divided into two sections, each covering one of the two skills.

  3. Assignment Titles: The descriptions of the two assignments have been changed to match the two skills.

  4. Reference Changes: The number of links to external sources and also internal links (particularly to the Glossary) has been reduced, to avoid confusing the reader. The list of sources cited has been consolidated into one section at the back and Harvard style references used.

  5. Title: ICT Sustainability has replaced Green ICT in the title, to match the skills descriptions used.

Minor changes to correct hypertext links were made in February 2012. In January 2013 some videos were added to the "reading" list and mention was made of the new Australian government's carbon pricing policy. For 2015 a rubrics were added for the assignments. For 2016 the weekly forums were changed to use peer assessment and automated quizzes were added (based on those developed for the Athabasca University undergraduate self-paced version by Mary Pringle. Also for 2016, the assessment scheme for the ANU version was changed to have weekly work not count above a grade of "Credit". For 2016 the assignments have each been split into two parts, with the student submitting a short description of how they are to address the problem, two weeks before the main assignment is due. Also a Tutor's Guide was added for 2016.

For 2018:

Next: Sustainability Assessment

About the book: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

Edition Notice

ICT Sustainability is about how to assess, and reduce, the carbon footprint and materials used with computers and telecommunications. These are the notes for an award winning graduate course on strategies for reducing the environmental impact of computers and how to use the Internet to make business more energy efficient.

Copyright © Tom Worthington, 2018

Third edition.

Cover shows Power on-off symbol: line within a circle (IEC 60417-5010).

Latest version of materials available free on-line, under at Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license at http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/

Previous edition, 2017:

ISBN: 9781326967949 (Hardback)
ISBN: 9781326958503 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781326967918 (PDF)
ISBN: 9781326958497 (ePub eBook via Lulu and Apple)
ASIN: B005SOEQZI (Kindle eBook)

Editions of these notes have been used for the courses:

  1. ICT Sustainability (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009), and
  2. Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635), Athabasca University (Canada). Adapted for North America by Brian Stewart.
  3. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009),