How can tech and software become sustainable in the future?

According to the analyst firm, Gartner, last year, the number of Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets reached 20.6 billion worldwide, surpassing the number of people currently on Earth by 13 billion units. This fit, although impressive, doesn’t come as a surprise, since back in 2017, the same report showed the number of IoT gadgets surpassing that of humans for the first time with 8 billion units. 

In only 3 years, the number of IoT gadgets, meaning intelligent or internet linked physical gadgets, has more than doubled and with that, the pollution associated with them. According to the United Nations, by this year (2021), people will generate 52.2 million metric tons of e-waste globally, a number that is fueled mainly by two variables. 

One is that, now more than ever, many of these gadgets contain semiconductor chips, contributing to the environmental impact associated with the manufacturing process of these parts, which have contributed to groundwater and air pollution, as well as toxic waste accumulation. The toxic exposure to certain chemicals has also presented adverse health effects among industry workers, raising concern and lawsuits against the whole semiconductor market. 

Secondly, as more computing elements are added to these types of gadgets, it shortens the life of the devices, turning products that lasted 15 years into ones that have to be replaced every 5 years, adding more pollution and contamination in the process. On average, the life span of IoT devices and applications varies from 10 to only 3 years. 

Now, software on its own doesn’t consume energy or emit any harmful discharge, but its developing process as well as the hardware in which it runs impacts strongly on the environment, as the number of gadgets continue to grow. 

As Mismo teams integrate the up-and-coming unicorn startups of the modern tech world, we are conscious about the impact, positive and negative, that tech can have on the environment. By implementing key strategies like our free paper policy, Digital Cleanup, social responsibility programs such as computer donations and our WFH standard, reducing transportation related pollution. 

In addition, these efforts have other benefits; Computer donations have provided many opportunities for improvement to students from Los Chiles, Upala and La Cruz. “Seeing students drop out for not having a computer with which to connect to a virtual classroom generates the deepest sense of helplessness and desolation. At the beginning of the Pandemic, many university students found themselves in serious difficulties in accessing the technologies to continue with their study. Basic equipment such as a computer and a stable internet connection became necessities of the first order for many young people who wanted to continue with their study. More than a year later it is not only a computer, it is the continuation of the illusion and the social improvement in which we are one more link. commented Andrés Ruiz, professor at Guanacaste’s Headquarters, University of Costa Rica. 

Regarding software development on its own, there are also many trends that companies and teams can implement in order to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, software developers can contribute to the energy efficiency of servers by choosing energy efficient APIs (Application Programming Interface) with the optimal choice of parameters while implementing file reading, file copy, file compression and more. 

Also, software and engineering companies can also integrate sustainability into their performance and metrics, by judging it on the same level as other traditional parameters like functionality, security, scalability, and accessibility. By including green practices and targets as criteria for CIO performance reviews, organizations can track more efficiently their environmental efforts.

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