Initiative: Digital Waste Conservation

Reading 1: https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/a-growing-digital-waste-cloud

Reading 2: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-technology-infrastructure-do-you-need-big-data-bernard-marr/

This is the Second Initiative by the Smart Cities Education to be conscious of the amount of digital waste generated every millisecond. I am referring to the terabytes or zillion bytes of digital bits generated on the hard-disks and Cloud through emails, videos, images, and information servers; as well as colossal waste in the disposal of physical devices, electricity use, etc. and the hardware is only a part of the digital waste.

As such, Dr. Mak has hosted an online course: Manage Your Email or Your Email will Manage You! that you can use your skillsfuture credit or grant through your employer. The course will also be conducted online due to the current Covid-19 situation.

To reduce Digital Waste (DW), we can look at it from Design Thinking, Lean Management, and Scrum (a course I am teaching: The Agile Design Thinking Experience- Working Together Better).

Through Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototype, and Evaluation, we can identify areas of digital waste origins at the workplace and home (or other settings), look at possible solutions critically and build prototypes that will help to reduce, reuse or recycle such digital waste.

From Lean Management, we have the 7 sources of Waste production:

  1. Overproduction – create too much
  2. Inventory – store excessively
  3. Transportation – transporting information
  4. Motion – moving people to access or move information
  5. Waiting – waiting for information or for the information to be processes
  6. Defects – errors or mistakes causing the effort to be overdone to correct it
  7. Overprocessing – processing more than necessary

Cloud storage is so cheap that Dropbox offers free 2GB of digital cloud storage online. If you need to transfer large files (greater than 2GB), you can use WeTransfer, PlusTransfer, NowTransfer, and others. This has led to people creating and storing indiscriminately. Facebook and Instagram have allowed huge storage of videos and photos to be shared; Google has offered 12GB of free digital space across various of its platforms such as Google Photo, Google Drive, Gmail, etc.

Time is lost when a person waits for downloading e.g. a youtube video through 4K Youtube Downloader. If one person waits for a minute; collectively it will mean millions of lost time while doing nothing.

The so-called good practice to have versioning of codes will accumulate digital data; multiple it over so many software houses in the entire planet; it takes up colossal storage daily; not counting the backup of the servers and its data – on databases and Big Data, at on-site and off-site locations. The older and legacy system will need cassettes of tapes for back up purpose e.g. AS400 server, although more are moving into the cloud space, and hence generating the need for more digital space, and e-Waste when the tapes are gradually retired.

Data Analytics requires huge datasets to make meaningful and more accurate predictions. Advancement in A.I. warrants the collection of more data to train it to make better decisions.

So what can we do to help to reduce the generation of digital waste?

  1. Regular house-keeping of emails, although small in contributing by an individual, adds up considerably for large organisation settings;
  2. AI algorithm has gone forth to use lesser data to make good and acceptable results.
  3. The reading source provided above also raised the matter of closing unused online accounts and request that files or information being stored be entirely erased from the system;

I believe there are more ways we can help to reduce digital waste. Post your comments.

In the second reading, “What Technology Infrastructure Do You Need For Big Data?“, it was mentioned that data is the fuel behind the advancement of IoT and AI that are driving the digital transformation today.

It was mentioned that “…some are not collecting enough data – allowing valuable insights to be missed. On the other hand, some take the approach of storing absolutely everything, and this can cause its own problems – increasing cost, compliance burdens, and, fairly often, confusion.”

Ivo Koerner, VP of IBM Systems, instead prefers to err on the safe side – “… it’s often better to collect and store more, rather than too little. “Deleting is far easier than recreating data, so I’d rather store and archive more data. Modern technology is becoming so cost-efficient that at the end of the day if you install another terabyte or two or even a petabyte, it’s not such a cost problem.”

I guess these Executives have such huge and fat monthly pay packets and humongous bonus that they forget the infrastructures and utilities that are needed to support these storage is detrimental to the mother Earth.

I do like the concept of a data lake where the data is shared across different operation branches in a raw and unedited form; so that business and economic values can be derived from them.

The interview can be found here:

I think that a compressed file system might be viable that can still be used for operational analytics. I have spoken to scientists from NUS who agreed and mentioned that there are pockets of people who have silos compressed data lake done for specialised system; there is no standard yet that has emerged that the whole industry can adopt for interoperability and integrity.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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