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Digital transformation and environmental sustainability in industry_ Putting expectations in Asian and African policies into perspective

Reference Type: 

Journal Article

Stefanie Kunkel, and Marcel Matthess. 2020. “Digital Transformation and Environmental Sustainability in Industry_ Putting Expectations in Asian and African Policies into Perspective.” Environmental Science and Policy 112: 318–29.

With the increasing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in industrial production, the risks and opportunities of these technologies for environmental sustainability as well as political awareness about these risks and opportunities become increasingly important. In this paper we analysed digital and industrial policies of four Sub-Saharan African countries (South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria) and three East Asian and Pacific countries (China, Thailand, Philippines) regarding their expectations about the impacts of ICTs in industry for environmental sustainability. We built on existing frameworks for the assessment of ICTs that distinguish between direct environmental effects which occur during the lifecycle of ICTs and indirect environmental effects which result from the application of ICTs in a variety of production processes and economic activities. We used qualitative content analysis to explore and analyse policy expectations regarding both direct and indirect environmental impacts of ICTs in industry. Our analysis showed that policies express a broad range of vague expectations focusing more on positive indirect impacts of the use of ICTs, e.g. for enhanced energy efficiency and resource management, than on negative direct impacts of ICTs, e.g. electricity consumption of ICTs. Moreover, expectations differed between countries and there was no shared theme that emerged in all policies. We suggest that policies must go beyond awareness of selected opportunities towards the integration of a more systemic understanding of interlinked direct and indirect impacts and pursue targeted measures to employ ICTs as tools for environmentally sustainable industries.

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