How to make responsible and sustainable digital uses

We hear more and more about digital sobriety and sustainable digital. A new term has also appeared more recently: responsible digital. Do all these terms mean the same thing? No, and we tell you more!

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There was a time when it was thought that going all digital, away from paper, was the best way to protect the environment. Since then, observations have been made; digital uses also have an environmental impact. Now, we hear more and more about digital sobriety and digital sustainability. A new term has also appeared more recently: responsible digital. Do all these terms mean the same thing? No, and we tell you more!

Digital sobriety

According to the official Wikipedia definition, digital sobriety is an approach that aims to reduce the environmental impact of digital technology by limiting its uses. 

Concretely, this could mean:

  • extend the life of its electronic and digital devices,
  • promote the reuse of used devices or their repair,
  • reduce the number of open windows in his web browser (nasty challenge!),
  • put devices on standby (and turn them off more regularly),
  • reduce the number of screens used (not easy in distance learning!),
  • limit the use of cloud computing for personal archiving by preferring recording on your computer or an external hard drive,
  • download a movie to their electronic device rather than streaming it (streaming),
  • manage their digital files so as not to have multiple copies of the same file on their devices.

Sustainable digital

If digital sobriety rather refers to the attitude that we adopt in relation to daily digital uses, sustainable digital encompasses a series of broader concepts.

Still on Wikipedia, we can read that sustainable IT also refers to green IT, also called eco-ICT (official translation for green IT). The expression concerns a set of techniques aimed at reducing the social, economic and environmental footprint of digital technology.

Sustainable digital therefore includes: 

  • gestures of digital sobriety: combating planned obsolescence, aiming for the circular economy by reusing and recovering devices; 
  • eco-design of digital products and services: using as little code as possible when programming new applications;
  • reducing energy consumption: favoring text over videos, reducing the resolution of images, etc.

Responsible digital

Beyond the environmental and material issues, the issues of accessibility and inclusion are increasingly present in the discussions around the uses of digital technology. Responsible digital of course takes into account the elements of sustainable digital, but it considers users more. In this case, we aim for uses that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

Remy Marrone is project director atResponsible Digital Institute. At a conference presented during the most recent Connected Week, in France, he argued that we should now think of digital, and more particularly the Web, as somethingUseful, who can be Used and who is actually Usable for the greatest number.

Thus, among other things, it should be remembered that:

  • assistive technology tools prefer text to images and videos (do you really need to shoot a video? Would text do the trick? If not, also include text and think about alternative text on images. );
  • the deployment of high-speed Internet is not completed everywhere and it is not everyone who has a state-of-the-art electronic device (returning to the previous point: is this video really necessary? Also think about the resolution of images and the size of the files sent. Likewise, is this videoconference really necessary? Sometimes an email or a phone call is all it takes);
  • representation of women in digital professions is still too low (think about activities to engage girls when showing images of users of electronic devices, make sure these are not too stereotypical, this assistant voice really need to have a female voice reminiscent of the servant role?);
  • only data or personal information that is useful and necessary for the service of users should be collected, in order to limit the risks in terms of privacy and the environmental impacts associated with their storage;
  • the use of artificial intelligence will bring many ethical issues and we will have to remain vigilant in this regard.

In addition, visit the site Responsible digital to find 100 principles to adopt to get started with responsible and sustainable digital. Where will you start?

Read on the École branchée website: 

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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