Bringing sustainability to the top of telecoms' agenda
Throughout the pandemic, telecoms provided a lifeline to businesses and consumers alike, enabling us to stay connected to friends, family and colleagues despite the myriad restrictions. By the same token, this unprecedented surge in demand led to telco infrastructures using more energy than ever; with more data centres and more devices, many struggled to keep a handle on their carbon footprint.
All the while, environmental sustainability was fast becoming a strategic priority for governments and organisations across the world, with a number of businesses committing themselves to reducing their carbon emissions – many of which, to the commendable target of net zero. Telecoms, uniquely positioned at the crossroads between connectivity and infrastructure, has a key role to play here, not only in cleaning up its own act, but by building a viable business strategy that is well integrated with environment and society; helping facilitate and deliver the efficiencies needed to build a more sustainable future across all industries.
Telcos and sustainability
In 2015, the UN laid out a set of 17 goals for sustainable development, which include reducing poverty and hunger, providing quality education, clean water and sanitation, bridging inequalities and ensuring responsible consumption and production.
The opportunity telcos offer towards meeting those goals goes beyond their traditional essential services such as voice and data, but in helping people to create and build their own digital communities and experiences where learning and even online business can take place in underserved communities. Customer engagement platforms – enabled by telcos – allow people to interact, transact and share information with one another, thus creating and building a shared knowledge, empowering and levelling the playing field across all members of a community.
Indeed, those sitting at the bottom of the social pyramid, with fewer privileges, now have access to the same resources and knowledge as those at the top by way of a shared digital society, which contributes towards bridging the information gap and creating more equal, fair and free opportunities. In this way, visions of a sustainable future – and certain ambitions – can be more fully visualized and realized.
Sustainable digitally connected experiences
Sustainability is not just about being able to access resources for future generations, but thinking about how we can provide a number of ways to make those resources accessible. One notable way is through digitally connected experiences that enable a sustainable ecosystem to thrive.
Through telco’s power of connectivity and infrastructure, access to critical services such as education, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, energy, banking and other services related to Government or local councils can be transformed, in turn transforming a community.
Some real-life use cases include providing digital banking and financial support to an unbanked population, enabling digital education in areas lacking schools, and supporting healthcare needs in locations where labs and hospitals are far away.
For telcos, collaborating with the right set of application and partnership providers to build the connective experience will prove vital.
Technology and infrastructure
It goes without saying that sustainable digital experiences cannot be designed or created without the right technological alignment and platforms. Technology must therefore be the backbone on which these innovations and experiences are introduced.
Whilst telcos have always been excellent at providing basic core services relating to voice and data, there is now an opportunity to go beyond, providing essential services in a digital form that help contribute towards the various sustainable development goals laid out by various organisations, not least of which the UN.
Still, attention must be paid to the infrastructure side, with a particular focus on the optimisation of user experience in the creation of a sustainable ecosystem.
Telco waste reduction
Telecoms is a notoriously wasteful sector, but by moving applications to cloud infrastructure, operators can reduce wastage by more than 80% when it comes to hardware, computing power, networking, storage and interface to users for access to resources.
Creating a well-defined data architecture that can optimize how data is written and maintained will also represent another means to manage sustainability. A number of database companies have come up with ideas to help telcos manage the huge volume of data they deal with, both in terms of processing and storage to reduce environmental wastage.
It’s the responsibility of telcos now to delve into some of these technological, infrastructure and environmental capabilities, going beyond business use cases to help create a sustainable environment.
With the power of digital experiences and technology platforms, telcos and digital service providers have the opportunity to create and enable meaningful impact around sustainable and inclusive development that goes beyond traditional methods. Still, if they are to be seen as anything other than a connectivity provider, they cannot afford to rest on their laurels – sustainability must be placed firmly at the top of the agenda and they must be willing to extend their core framework beyond the now.