Panel: Hurdles slow green IT adoption

Government contractors are increasingly interested in providing their customers ways to meet their goals for more environmentally friendly information technology, but they are finding some hurdles remain, according to a panel presentation today.

The panelists spoke at the Green IT Summit in Washington, an event presented by 1105 Government Information Group's e-Gov Institute.

"We believe green business is good business," said Yogesh Khanna, vice president and chief technology officer at the infrastructure solutions division of Computer Sciences Corp. "There's a solid business strategy. There is money to be saved."

Companies are investing significant sums. IBM Corp., for one, spends about $1 billion a year on its recently launched "Big Green" program, which aims to foster more ecologically friendly IT operations for both customers and the company, said Michael Desens, an IBM vice president.

IBM owns 8 million square feet of data center space, he said. Making those operations more green requires attention to every detail, whether it's the power consumption of cooling systems or the accumulated environmental impact of hundreds of microprocessor chips operating in one room.

Telework is another popular green initiative, but it is more often talked about than actually implemented, said John Carrow, senior vice president of strategic client development at Unisys Corp.

"It's hard to get people to change [their thinking], but organizational policy is going to get in the way as well," he said.

Security policies are especially difficult to address, he said. Agencies are rightfully concerned about protecting data that their employees take home on storage devices or send to the office over the Internet, often using wireless connections.

"Security as a barrier to acceptance of these things has got to be dealt with head-on," he said.

The potential rewards of agencies meeting all their green goals are enormous, said John Nyce, associate director of the Acquisition Services Directorate in the Interior Department's National Business Center.

Closing out the conference as the luncheon keynote presentation, Nyce said that the federal government could save enough electricity to power 1.2 million homes for a year, and 24.4 million metric tons of discarded materials. The reduction of carbon emissions, he said, would be like removing 850,000 cars from the road.

Meeting those goals starts with acquiring hardware wisely, he said, observing established standards for lower-impact products. "Acquisition is and should be one of the prime focuses of leadership."

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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