Digital sufficiency: conceptual considerations for ICTs on a finite planet

Reference Type:

Journal Article

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Published In:

Annals of Telecommunications

Year:

2022

Author(s):

Tilman Santarius
Jan C. T. Bieser
Vivian Frick
Mattias Höjer
Maike Gossen
Lorenz M. Hilty
Eva Kern
Johanna Pohl
Friederike Rohde
Steffen Lange

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ICT hold significant potential to increase resource and energy efficiencies and contribute to a circular economy. Yet unresolved is whether the aggregated net effect of ICT overall mitigates or aggravates environmental burdens. While the savings potentials have been explored, drivers that prevent these and possible counter measures have not been researched thoroughly. The concept digital sufficiency constitutes a basis to understand how ICT can become part of the essential environmental transformation. Digital sufficiency consists of four dimensions, each suggesting a set of strategies and policy proposals: (a) hardware sufficiency, which aims for fewer devices needing to be produced and their absolute energy demand being kept to the lowest level possible to perform the desired tasks; (b) software sufficiency, which covers ensuring that data traffic and hardware utilization during application are kept as low as possible; (c) user sufficiency, which strives for users applying digital devices frugally and using ICT in a way that promotes sustainable lifestyles; and (d) economic sufficiency, which aspires to digitalization supporting a transition to an economy characterized not by economic growth as the primary goal but by sufficient production and consumption within planetary boundaries. The policies for hardware and software sufficiency are relatively easily conceivable and executable. Policies for user and economic sufficiency are politically more difficult to implement and relate strongly to policies for environmental transformation in general. This article argues for comprehensive policies for digital sufficiency, which are indispensible if ICT are to play a beneficial role in overall environmental transformation.