Sustainable Development Through Green ICT: The Role of Education and the Business Sector

Tom Worthington

Research School of Computer Science

Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
For International Seminar, Faculty of Science and Technology, UIN Suska University of Riau (Fakultas Sains Dan Teknologi, Universitas Islam Negeri Sultan Syarif Kasim Riau), November 2012, Pekanbaru, Riau, Indonesia.
Slides and notes:
Pembangunan Berkelanjutan Melalui Green ICT: Peran Pendidikan dan Sektor Bisnis

Description: Sustainable ICT investigates ways to measure and reduce the use of energy, by and with computers and telecommunications. This can reduce the amount of energy used by the community while at the same time boosting economic development. One way ICT can provide sustainable economic benefits is with online communication. One example of the use of online communication is for education. The Australian Computer Society commissioned an online course in Green ICT in 2008. First run in February 2009, this course is run entirely online using the Internet with students around the world. The course is designed to use a low speed international communication, not requiring broadband. Students can use a smart-phone for participating in weekly online class discussions and reading the course notes. The course provides an example of how the Internet can be used to reduce energy use, while helping development. Students can undertake the course in their workplace and do tasks useful to the workplace as assignments for the course. The same course has been run at the Australian National University and adapted by Athabasca University (Canada). The course had enrolments from industry based participants from both private and public sector organisation, as well as full time university students, with corporate Green ICT strategies being produced as course assignments. The course materials are available free online for use in the form of an eBook and content for the Moodle free open access learning management system.

Keywords: sustainable ICT education, postgraduate studies, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, e-learning, work integrated learning, development, developing nations, Indonesia.

These are the notes for the presentation using HTML Slidy. If viewing the slides you can press "A" to display these notes (and press "A" again to hide them). To advance to the next slide, press "page down", or click the left mouse button.

Tom Worthington FACS CP

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington is an IT consultant and course designer for vocational and postgraduate university courses. In 2010 he was awarded Canberra ICT Educator of the Year by the Australian Computer Society, for his work on sustainable e-learning. Tom is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy and previously worked for the Australian Government. He is a Past President, Honorary Life Member, Certified Professional and a Certified Computer Professional of the society as well as a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Introduction: Sustainable ICT

Computers > electricity > fossil fuel > CO2 > global warming.

1.52% of Australian carbon emissions in 2007 due to ICT

Computers and telecommunications (ICT) equipment is powered by electricity. If the electricity is generated by burning fossil fuel, this releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which traps sunlight, causing global warming.

A carbon emissions audit for the the Australian Computer Society (ACS), reported in 2007 that 1.52% of Australian carbon emissions were attributable to computers and telecommunications equipment.

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.

ICT Improving Business Efficiency

Dematerialisation: substitute ICT low carbon alternatives for high energy products and services. Also:

From: SMART 2020 report, The Climate Group, 2008.

ICT systems can reduce energy and materials use by improving the efficiency of business systems by replacing the movement of goods with information (dematerialisation), improve the efficiency of machines (smart motor systems), logistics, buildings and grids.

The Climate Group detailed how these techniques could be used to reduce carbon emissions Chapter 3 "The enabling effect" and 4 "The SMART 2020 transformation" of their SMART 2020 report (2008).


Dematerialisation substitutes low carbon alternatives for high carbon products and services. Typical examples are replacing travelling to meetings with teleworking via computer and videoconferencing. Paper invoices can be replaced with electronic ones, reducing the use of paper and the energy needed to transport the paper.

However it cannot be assumed that every ICT system will result in a smaller energy use or that users will use the systems as expected. A server for e-commence may use more energy than the paper it is replacing. Teleworking may stimulate more face-to-face meetings for participants, rather than displace them.

Smart Motor Systems

Electric motors used in industry contribute a significant proportion of carbon emissions. Computer controlled variable-speed drives (VSD) can be used to reduce the power provided by the motor to the requirements of the task, thus saving energy and reducing emissions.

Smart Logistics

Logistics is the study of the management of the flow of goods from the point of production to consumption. Logistics was an early adopter of ICT systems. New techniques use Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to individually track items of inventory, Geographical information systems (GIS) to plan deliveries and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for Real time fleet tracking.

Smart Buildings

Building Automation Systems (BAS) use a network of sensors to monitor conditions in a building and adjust the mechanical and lighting systems to minimise energy use using techniques such as Occupancy-based lighting and Demand control ventilation. The term 'smart buildings' is used more broadly to cover the design and construction of buildings using ICT. This can use Modelling and simulating energy consumption, Building design and simulation software. Buildings can also be equipped with technology to allow collaboration with remote workers, minimising the need for meeting rooms.

Smart Grids

Smart grids use ICT to control the delivery of electricity from suppliers to consumers to minimise eenergy loss and cost. This can be used to optimise the use of existing distribution and long distance transmission grids for distributing energy from existing large plants and for alternative energy production from small local solar, wind and cogeneration plants. Smart meters allow for consumers to adjust their energy use depending on cost and so be encouraged to reduce overall use.

Teaching to Reduce Energy Use Online

Australian Computer Society (ACS) commissioned a course in 2008 on how to measure and reduce ICT CO2:

  1. First run by ACS, February 2009: Green ICT Strategies
  2. Graduate program of Australian National University (ANU) from July 2009 as Green Information Technology Strategies (COMP7310)
  3. Adapted by Athabasca University, Canada in 2011: Green ICT Strategies
  4. Aligned with Skills Framework for the information Age (SFIA)

In response to the issue of carbon emissions from computers, the ACS, commissioned Tom Worthington to design an e-learning course in “Green ICT Strategies”, to train professionals in how to measure and reduce CO2 emissions. It was first run as part of the postgraduate masters level program in February 2009.

The course was first run by ACS, in February 2009 as "Green ICT Strategies" (later renamed "Green Technology Strategies"), with students who are working in the ICT industry. The course was then modified slightly are run by Tom Worthington in the graduate program of Australian National University (ANU) from July 2009 as Green Information Technology Strategies, COMP7310 (later renamed ICT Sustainability). A North American version of the course was developed by Brian Stewart for Athabasca University (Canada) in 2011 as "Green ICT Strategies".

The course was designed as part of the ACS Computer Professional Education Program, which uses a Constructivist e-Learning approach, derived from that of the UK Open University.

The which consists of three core, compulsory courses and one elective. Green ICT was added to the electives, using the same format as other courses. On-line content is provided for 12 weeks of student work, with weekly text based discussion forums and assignments.

The course covers how to assess, and develop a strategies to reduce, the carbon footprint and materials use of the ICT operations of an organisation. This is in the context where computers and telecommunications are threat to the environment through increased electricity consumption (leading to carbon emissions and global warming) and increased toxic waste from rapidly obsolete equipment. Students are expected to have a degree in ICT. Those completing the course are expected to be preparing carbon accounting reports for organisations, including those required under carbon accounting legislation.

The course objectives and assessment items are based on the skills definitions for “Sustainability Assessment” and “Sustainability Strategy” at level 5 of the Skills Framework for the information Age (SFIA).

Learning Online

Moodle e-learning system provides:

  1. Online tools for educator to author content
  2. Online delivery of content to students
  3. Online discussion forums and tools for students to author content

The ACS and ANU use the Australian developed Moodle open source Learning Management System (LMS). This has web based tools built in for authoring content in the form of web pages.

It should be noted that books and their online equivalent are just an aid to learning. LMS such as Moodle, also provide ways for tutors to fostering discussion between students, not just presenting 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.

Learning by Doing

Two areas of assessment:

  1. Assignments
    1. Write a report on the carbon footprint of the ICT operations of your organisation
    2. Write a report identify ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation
  2. Contributions to the discussion forums

Students Teach Each Other

Moodle e-learning system provides:

  1. Online discussion forums
  2. Tools for students to author content

The tutors fostering discussion, not presenting 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 online collaboration techniques in the workplace.

The techniques of using mentored collaborative online learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley.

Online References Used

  1. The Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program, Sustainable IT Lecture Series, Natural Edge Project, 2008
  2. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), Green Electronics Council. GEC 2006.
  3. Energy Star Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, 2007
  4. The Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy, Tom Worthington, Report and Recommended Plan of Action, prepared for the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Version 1.0, 23 September 2008.

Use of Open Access Material

See: “Ideal Characteristics of an Assessment Tool”, National Quality Council

The course notes used by ACS students were released under a Creative Commons open access license. This allowed the material to be revised for use at the Australian National University in July 2009. This version was then further revised and used for ACS students in the next semester. This approach allowed the more rapid revision of material than would be possible with a a conventional textbook, and with more resources available than if the notes were just used by one institution.

As the notes evolved, it became clear that some of the administrative procedures would need to be separated from the subject content. As an example, different educational institutions use different assessment procedures, such as grading scales and proportion of marks for weekly work and assignments. The use of the Learning Management System (LMS) made it possible to remove the administrative detail from the course notes and rely on them being available from other documents in the system. This also removes some burden from the student to have to read through the same standard material for each course they are undertaking: if the student can see it is the same link from the LMS for all courses, then they need read it only once.

While it may seem useful to have requirements for an assessment to be as detailed and specific as possible, this may not be the case. Courses which are part of an overall program should have consistent requirements. Thus it should not be necessary to restate the details common to all assessment in every assessment item or in every course. This is particularly the case where a LMS is used. The National Quality Council's “Ideal Characteristics of an Assessment Tool” include the details of how assessment is to be recorded, which can be dealt standardised by the institution by using an LMS.

Course Notes Via The Web

Course notes prepared in web format using Moodle:

The course was originally prepared using the web based course authoring tools in the free open access Moodle Learning Management System (LMS). The ACS, ANU and Athabasca University all use the same LMS, allowing simple transfer of the course-ware between systems, via the Moodle backup and restore function.

The first version of the course used a separate web document for each of the twelve weekly topics in the course. However, this created a maintenance burden and was confusing for the student. The materials were therefore all consolidated into one web based eBook, using the Moodle “book module” function, with one chapter per topic in the book.

The course content was exported from Moodle in HTML format and converted to Amazon Kindle and Apple and ePub eBook formats, as well as PDF, a standalone web site and a print-on-demand paperback book. However, provision of the notes within the LMS has proved more popular with students and simpler to maintain.


Assessment is by contribution to weekly forums and two written assignments: mid semester and at the end of the course. The weekly forum questions are at the end of each week in the course book. The assessment scheme, assignment questions and rubrics are in the assessment appendix of the book.

The tutor is key to this form of e-learning. In the introductory posting for the course, the tutor is required to point out where the assessment items are and explain that the rubric are based on the generic one of the institution: weekly forum assessment is a limited fail, pass, credit scale and the assignments the full scale. Each week the tutor should post each question for that week as a forum topic, so the students can post their answers in that thread of discussion.

In the weekly forum posting for the course, the tutor should provide an example of a good posting, suggest areas for general improvement. The tutor should also remind students how many weeks there are to the next assignment being due and that the weekly forum questions are designed to be used in the assignments.

In the weekly individual feedback to students (via the Dialogue tool of the LMS, not email), the tutor must provide a mark for that week and at least one example of a good posting by the student and one suggestion for an improvement to a posting. If there are no postings from a student for a week, they should be reminded by the tutor that participation is compulsory and after two weeks, the program supervisor should be advised.

The assignments are marked with reference to a rubric, first determining what grade is warranted and then the mark within the grade. Marks are not allocated to individual aspects of the work and no summation is carried out. The examiner can use a copy of the rubric as feedback to the student, with relevant comments indicated by highlighting phases in the rubric (this can be done with an electronic document returned via the LMS).

Making Students Pay Attention to Feedback with Assessment

Students pay attention to weekly tutor feedback, as it is accompanied by marks.

A weekly mark of 2% is sufficient to have the students pay attention.

Conventional educational theory suggests that formative feedback should be provided to students to help them improve. This should be in addition to summative assessment for the final grading for a course. However, students pay far closer attention to marks than they do to tutor feedback. The practice experience of this course is that a weekly mark of 2% accompanying the feedback is sufficient to have the students pay attention to what they are being told by the tutor.

Authentic Assessment Tasks

Gulikers, Bastians and Kirschner define an authentic assessment as:

"... one which appropriately reflects the competency that needs to be assessed and that it represents real-life problems of the knowledge domain being assessed and that the thinking processes that experts use to solve the problem in real life are also required by the assessment task."

The course requires students to prepare reports typical or a workplace setting. This contrasts with the multiple choice test used by the British Computer Society for their “Foundation Certificate in Green IT. An IT practitioner is unlikely to be asked multiple choice questions as part of their daily job.

Students are encouraged to answer all assessment items from the point of view of their workplace (or one they are familiar with), making them more authentic to the student. The assessment items are based on official international skills definitions from the professional body, and so are similar to real tasks. The student as are required to make real calculations based on a real world situation, requiring the students to demonstrate mastery. As both the course content and assignments are based closely on skills definitions and practice standards, there is a clear alignment between learning outcomes, course content, assessment and professional knowledge. Workplace skills are integrated by the student being encouraged to submit a real report from their workplace, in consultation with their supervisor. The weekly questions and feedback are intended to show how the assessment helps with learning.

Localisation of Content

Tailor course to each country's requirements?

But ICT, the energy industry and climate science are global.

An issue for the course is if it should be tailored to each country's requirements, or can be one international syllabus. Athabasca University have included North American content in their version of the ACS course. The views of industry and the students need to be sought on the level of customisation required, and the course could be adapted for countries such as Indonesia, but ICT, the energy industry and climate science are global.

Social Networking for Education and CO2 Reduction

ACS introducing Mahara for courses:

  1. NZ Government open source web application
  2. ePortfolio for students to display their course or RPL work
  3. Social networking for education and business (
  4. Reducing meetings an CO2 emissions

The ACS is introducing the Mahara open source ePortfolio and social networking web application developed by the New Zealand government. It allows students to create a portfolio of their work to demonstrate they have met the learning objectives through the course or by recognition of prior learning.

The social networking features to allow users to interact with each other for tutorials and projects. In addition to using this to learn in the course, it will be a valuable skill to apply in the workplace. The students can learn how to use these techniques in a businesslike way, to achieve organisational goals.

Apart from increasing learning and business efficiency, ePortfolios and social networking can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Workers will be able to identify human resources for their projects via ePortfolios and arrange the work using social networking. A current commercial example of this is Organisations can use applications such as Mahara to create their own internal equivalent sites.


Sustainable ICT can help address energy issues:

A sustainable ICT course can be provided on-line at the graduate level and could be applied at other levels. Such a course can be provided internationally both to industry participants and full time university students. Work integrated learning can be used, with students producing , green ICT strategies for their workplace as part of a course. Free materials are available for designing such courses.

More Information

  1. The presentation notes are at: and machine translated into Indonesian: Pembangunan Berkelanjutan Melalui Green ICT: Peran Pendidikan dan Sektor Bisnis
  2. Slides for these notes are also available
  3. Conference paper: WORTHINGTON, T. 2012. A green computing professional education course online: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and eBooks. 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education. Melbourne, Australia: IEEE. URL:
  4. Book: "ICT Sustainability", Tom Worthington, 2011: Kindle, iPad, ePub, PDF eBooks, Paperback and web
  5. Work-Integrated-Learning: With E-books and E-Learning, for the Australian eLearning Congress, Sydney, 8 February 2012
  6. Green ICT Strategies COMP7310, Masters program, The Australian National University, from July 2009
  7. ACS Green ICT Course
  8. North American version adapted by Brian Stewart, Athabasca University (Canada): Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635)
  9. Tom Worthington

Version 1.0, 2 November 2012, Tom Worthington

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