Teaching Sustainable ICT Competencies with Tablet Computers

My first year's experience setting the global standard for green ICT professional education

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM

Adjunct Lecturer, Australian National University and Green ICT Course Designer for the Australian Computer Society

For Sustain IT, at the World Computer Congress 2010, Brisbane, 23 September 2010

The first globally available and accredited Green ICT course for computer professionals commenced in January 2009. Sponsored by the Australian Computer Society, as part of aninternational program for professional education, the course is also now run at the masters’ level by the Australian National University and several other Australian and North American institutions. Course designer Tom Worthington discusses how e-learning is used with mentored and collaborative techniques to deliver professional education on mobile devices.

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM

Tom Worthington preparing to depart the USS Blue Ridge by Military Helicopter during Exercise Tandem Thrust 97 Joint Operations Control Centre (JOCC) on aboard Blue Ridge during Exercise Tandem Thrust 97

Here is the usual bio I provide for conference:

Tom Worthington is an ICT consultant to government and industry, a teacher and expert witness in court cases. Tom advises on, designs and teaches vocational and university courses on green ICT, the design of accessible mobile emergency web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics. In 2008 he was commissioned to design the world first globally accredited, postgraduate professional e-learning course on sustainable ICT. Tom is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University. He is a past president, Fellow, Certified Professional and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society and a member of the ACM and IEEE-CS.

One experience at the Department of Defence, while doing web pages for military exercises, seems relevant to this conference. At the invitation of the web master of the U.S. 7th Fleet I visited them on the Flagship on exercises off the coast of Queensland, for some extreme mobile computing. The 18,500 ton, 1,550 crew USS Blue Ridge is a mobile floating headquarters, equipped with ordinary desktop computers used to run military exercises. Standard office software and web browsers are used. This reduces the cost and allows systems to be easily upgraded. Temporary staff, such as the US Marines bring their laptops and stick them to the desktops using green gaffer tape.

The lesson from the US Navy was that that an IT systems need to be in simple to survive. I suggest that training for IT professionals also needs to have an emphasis on the simple and practical aspects.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions with ICT


In 2007 the Australian Computer Society sponsored the first national audit of ICT carbon emissions. This found that computers and telecommunications cased 1.52% of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e) in Australia in 2005. This is consistent with later studies in other countries which came up with figures of about 2%. A more comprehensive ACS study found 2.7% CO2e in 2009. The higher figure is likely to be due to the study counting more emissions, rather than due to a large increase. This is primarily from the burning of coal to generate electricity to run computers and telecommunications.

Climate Scientists have recommended a 25% to 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. This is substantially more than reductions which have been debated in Parliament, such as 5% to 15% in the Australian Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill.

The Climate Group estimated that more effective use of computers and telecommunications can deliver a reduction of 15% in emissions. This would be by using ICT more efficiently so it uses less energy and applying ICT more effectively so that emissions from industry are deduced.

ICT infrastructure can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relatively quickly, without the need for extensive new investment in equipment or infrastructure, as is the case with power generating equipment. However, this requires ICT professionals to have new skills to measure emissions, design systems to reduce emissions and convince their employers and clients to do so. In response the 2007 study, the ACS commissioned an on-line training course to teach ICT professionals how to estimate and reduce these emissions.

Green Cloud Data Centers?

... Green Cloud Data Centers will be promoted to reduce data center energy consumption by locating them in cold regions, utilizing wind and solar power, employing low-loss direct current, and using tunnels and other underground sites with strong earthquake resistance and stable temperatures. ...

From: Digital Japan Creation Project Outline, Japan Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), 17 March 2009.

“Green” means that you not only take special care to minimize your impact on the environment, but that you also get your energy from renewable sources. ..."

From: Brown Clouds: Is Cloud Hosting Green by Default?, Tushar Mathur, Talking About Green, 3 September 2010

Recent claims for "green" data centres illustrate the need for training ans standards in this area. In 2009 the Japanese government issued a proposal for "Green Cloud Data Centers" with reduced energy consumption. However, like many such proposals, few details were provided.

Tushar Mathur, in Brown Clouds: Is Cloud Hosting Green by Default? (Talking About Green, 3 September 2010) pointed out that the assumption that using a cloud server instead of an in-house data centre is not necessarily a "Green" choice. The result may be simply an accounting trick, transferring the pollution off the organisations books and to a location elsewhere in the world, perhaps using a more polluting power source.

How Green is Your Cloud?

Current measure: Data centre infrastructure efficiency:

DCiE = (Main IT equipment energy consumption)/(Total facility energy consumption)

Not suitable for Cloud Computing

Green Grid proposes "Global Harmonization" in 2011.

Japan proposes Datacenter Performance per Energy (DPPE)

On 5 April 2010 green grid announced "Global Harmonization of Data Center Energy Efficiency Metrics" with US, European and Japanese bodies agreeing to work on common international standards. The aim is to come up with a global standard in 2011. The Japanese Green IT Promotion Council (GiPC) has proposed Datacenter Performance per Energy (DPPE). In the interim Data centre infrastructure efficiency (DCiE) and its reciprocal, Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is the best there is.

However, the current measures, DCiE and PUE only measure the efficiency of getting energy to the servers in a data centre, they do not measure how much useful work the servers do. The user of a cloud computing service therefore has no idea how efficient the service is at processing their data. Widely agreed standards for "useful work" may be some years away.

First global Green ICT Course

In 2008 the Australian Computer Society (ACS) commissioned a 12 Week E-learning course as part of the Computer Professional Education Program. This program is now part of the ACS's accreditiaion by the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3) for international standards of professionalism in IT. It is at a postgraduate Masters-level with university articulation to several Australian university programs.

The course was first run by the ACS in early 2009. The course materials are available as free open source in the e-book Free e-textbook "Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions" (Tom worthington, 2009). The course was run by the Australian national University, second semester 2009 and 2010. A version of the course adapted by one of the former ANU students for North America is offered by Athabasca University, Canada.

Green ICT

Students learn how to:

Green ICT (Green IT or Green Computing) is the study and practice of using computers and telecommunications in a way which maximises positive environmental benefit and minimise the negative impact.

The energy efficiency of operating equipment is a major concern of Green ICT. The embodied energy and life-cycle of the materials used in the design, manufacture and reuse and recycling of equipment and components are also concerns. Green ICT seeks to inform accepted management practises to achieve efficient and effective business interaction.

Business ICT Competencies

Zonbu miniature PC

Need to add SFIA sustainable IT skills

The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) 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 target SIFA Level 5 competencies: "ensure, advise: Broad direction, supervisory, objective setting responsibility. Influences organisation. Challenging and unpredictable work. Self sufficient in business skills".

When the course was designed in late 2008, there were no SFIA IT skills defined specifically for green IT. So suitable generic skills were selected. SFIA added four sustainable IT skills in 2010 and modification to match these is planned for 201:.

The four new skills are:
  • SUST Sustainability strategy (in Strategy and architecture)
  • SUMI Sustainability management for IT (in Strategy and architecture)
  • SUAS Sustainability assessment (in Business change)
  • SUEN Sustainability engineering (in Solution development and implementation)

From: "Sustainability skills for
Information Technology SFIA 4G
", Newsletter, SFIA Foundation, May 2010

Students Teach Each Other

Moodle e-learning system provides:

  1. Online discussion forums
  2. Tools to author content

The tutors foster discussion, not present content.

See: Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning, David Lindley, IJCIM Special Issues on e-learning, Vol.15 No. SP4, November, 2007.

The ACS and the ANU use the Australian developed Moodle open source Learning Management System. This is used to provide forums for students to discuss what they are learning, not just receive content prepared by teachers. This also teaches students how to use the same on-line collaboration techniques in the workplace.

The techniques of using mentored collaborative on-line learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley. This uses a model of online learning described by Gilly Salmon in "E-Moderating: the Key to Teaching and Learning Online.

Green ICT e-Book

The first ACS delivery of the Green ICT course distributed the course materials in weekly segments using the Moodle Learning Management System. This resulted in a large number of small documents where were difficult to maintain and difficult for the students to keep track of. For the first ANU delivery of the course, all notes were consolidated using the Moodle Book Module, to provide a simple implementation of an e-book. The notes for each week of the course correspond to a book chapter. The weekly material is revealed week by week, to prevent students being overwhelmed by the volume of material at the start of the course. But students can read ahead in the book, if they wish. The students can view or print one chapter, or the whole book. They can also export chapters or the whole book to real offline.

The book chapters were exported to create a free web version of the notes. This version has been selected by the National Library of Australia for long-term preservation in the PANDORA Archive of online publications by Australian authors.

The book chapters were then imported into the OpenOffice.Org word processor, with each chapter retained in HTML format. A master document was then created with a table of contents and all chapters linked. This was then exported as PDF print on demand publishing as a PDF e-Book, Paperback, Hardcover and Large-print Paperback.

The "print" version of the Moodle Book was uploaded to Amazon.Com's e-publishing system to create a Amazon Kindle e-Book.

Producing a ePUB format book for the Apple iPad has proved more difficult due to the lack of suitable tools. This will likely await the next revision of the course material. However, the PDF, Moodle and web versions of the material are usable with an iPad.

Mobile Devices, Tablets and Smart Phones

The green course notes are formatted as web pages, using standard HTML and accessibility guidelines. As a result the material can be displayed on a wide range of web browsers, on desktop computers, smart phones and tablet computers (including Google Android and Apple iPad). No special mobile version or "app" is required, as the one web version is designed to work on a wide range of devices. Students can read the notes on a small screen and participate in the weekly discussion forums using Moodle on a smart phone or tablet computer. However, it is unlikely a student will be able to research or write a multi-thousand word assignment using a hand held device, so a laptop or desktop computer will still be required.

Green ICT Course as a Green Application

The ACS and the ANU use on-line learning for their Green ICT courses. This allows a full formal university level education to be provided with the student never having to attend a campus. Apart from saving the providers the cost of classrooms, this save on energy expended in student travel.

Both ANU and ACS decided to have their e-learning systems hosted by specialist e-learning providers. As a result the systems are running on servers optimised for this one application and shared with other educational institutions. This consolidation is a byproduct of the need to have specialist staff maintaining the e-learning software, but also reduces hardware cost and environmental impact.

The course materials are formatted using web document standards (HTML, XML, CSS), with limited use of PDF and PowerPoint. As a result the entire course takes less than 1 Mbyte of storage (about 100 kbytes for each week of the course). Separate PDF versions of the materials for printing are not required as acceptable print versions can be created from the HTML. This reduces the storage required on the e-learning server, data transmission requirements and storage on the student's computer.

These techniques could be used to address the new Australian Government priorities for skills and development in regional Australia. Broadband is also a priority for regional areas, so these techniques could be applied to provide skills in a cost effective and environmentally efficient way.

Future of HTML 5 for Green Apps

It is not feasible to have every computer application run on a remote server. However in many cases a simple Offline Web applications as provided for in the HTML 5 draft standard will be sufficient. This allows caching of relatively static content on the client computer, with limited creation of new content offline, and then synchronisation when on-line. Such a system can be implemented relatively simply with HTML5, without the need for additional software on the client computer. Having only a limited offline capability can be an advantage to a business, as it prevents too much corporate data from being held outside the control of the corporate data centre.

Currently web based applications require additional "plug in" players for multimedia formats. HTML5 offers the option of native browser support, allowing smaller web appliance devices to be used in place of personal computers, for lower cost and smaller environmental footprint.

More Information

  1. Green ICT Strategies COMP7310, Masters program, The Australian National University, from July 2009
  2. ACS Green ICT Course
  3. Green ICT Book
  4. Tom Worthington
  5. This document is available at: www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/green_ict_skills/

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2010 (Version 1.0, 15 September 2010) Tom Worthington

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Green ICT Skills by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.