Policy Analysis

ICTs as Enablers of the Green Economy: A brief on Internet policy issues

By Don MacLean on September 22, 2011

Today more than a quarter of the world's people use the Internet and more than two thirds have mobile phone subscriptions.

A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that Internet-related consumption and expenditure is now bigger than agriculture or energy. It also found that the Internet's total contribution to global GDP is bigger than that of Canada or Spain. As a result of its economic impact, the OECD has stated that "as the services it supports become pervasive, ubiquitous and more essential in everyday life, the economyis increasingly the Internet economy".

In addition to these economic impacts, the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) have enabled significant changes in social structures, human behaviour, and governance processes. This has given rise to new opportunities for enabling the development of the green economy — for example, through the deployment of smart systems that increase efficiency in the energy, transportation, building and manufacturing sectors, as well as through the dematerialization of products, services and transactions throughout the economy and society. It has also given rise to new challenges, such as reducing the toxic waste and greenhouse gas emissions produced by the ICT sector itself.

In recent years ICT policy-makers have begun to analyze these opportunities and challenges with the aim of identifying key issues related to the role of the Internet and other ICTs in green growth and recommending appropriate lines of action to their stakeholders. The purpose of this policy brief is to summarize the results of this work for green economy policy makers, so that they can begin to consider the potential benefits of closer collaboration with ICT policy-makers on issues of common concern.

Policy Analysis details