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Demystifying the environmental footprint of digital technology

Updated: Mar 15

It is sometimes difficult to see clearly with all the preconceived ideas circulating and the hyper-mediatisation of the sector's impact.

The media, politicians and businesses all take up the subject, and sometimes the wrong orders of magnitude are propagated.

So, is it better to sort out your emails or make your smartphone last? Do data centres have more impact than television production? Should you forget about attachments?

Is the cloud really dematerialised? Digital technology may only account for 3 to 4% of emissions, but be warned: it is the fastest-growing sector in terms of emissions!

The most recent reports estimate that it will grow by 60% by 2040, accounting for 6.7% of national greenhouse gas emissions. And this is not the same subject.

In addition to greenhouse gases, the issue of the environmental footprint of digital technology needs to be extended to the entire life cycle of networks, equipment and terminals, adopting a multi-criteria approach (rare earths, water, primary energy, etc.) as well as their lifespan and recycling conditions.

In addition, optimising hardware constantly increases our data consumption: this is known as the rebound effect.

What is La Fresque du Numérique in concrete terms? It's both a powerful educational experiment that has already attracted over 40,000 people and a large community of 2,000 facilitators who are spreading the word about the workshop.

We spoke to Aurélien DERAGNE, who took part in the storytelling exercise, to tell us about the project's intention, the challenges it addresses, the obstacles it encounters, the governance chosen and the next steps.


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