Press release

IISD launches global debate on ICTs, the Internet and sustainability

May 30, 2012

WINNIPEG—May 31, 2012—The International Institute for Sustainable Development has launched a debate about the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the Internet on sustainability.
"The timing of this debate is critical" said Heather Creech, director of IISD's global connectivity program. "Over the past 20 years, these technologies have had unprecedented economic, social and environmental impacts—some positive and some negative. The world needs to find ways to maximize their sustainability benefits and minimize the harm they cause."
In June, the UN Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development will make decisions that will affect global sustainability policy for years to come. In December, the World Conference on International Telecommunication will take equally critical decisions about the future of global networks and services.

"These two events are happening in isolation from each other," Creech said. "Almost no one is talking about the relationship between them. IISD wants to help close this governance gap."

To begin debate, IISD has published a discussion paper on the relationship between ICTs, the Internet and sustainability. The paper was prepared by IISD senior associate David Souter, and can be accessed at

The discussion paper explores how new technology and media are transforming economies and societies. It asks how their contribution to global sustainability can be maximized, and whether we need to rethink our understanding of sustainability as a result.

It will be followed by a series of thought-provoking interviews and papers on ICTs, the Internet and sustainability over the next six weeks.

The first two interviews with Vint Cerf and Jim MacNeill—leading architects of Internet and sustainability policy respectively—illustrate both the intersection and the continuing gap between those seeking to advance development through global connectivity and those working toward global sustainability.

·       Cerf co-designed the basic Internet protocols in the 1970s and now serves as Google's Chief Internet Evangelist.

·       MacNeill served as secretary-general of the Brundtland Commission and was lead author of its report, Our Common Future.

Papers on specific aspects of the relationship between ICTs, the Internet and sustainability by leading international experts will be published in succeeding weeks.

To provide a global forum for discussing and debating the ideas presented in these papers, the global connectivity team has created a blog where comments can be posted at

"We hope to hear from everyone what they think about how ICTs and the Internet are impacting sustainability and how to maximize benefits," said Creech. "This is too important a subject to be left to technical experts alone." -end-

Please contact Heather Creech for more information:, or public affairs manager Nona Pelletier: +1 (204) 958-7740, mobile +1 (204) 962-1303 or email

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.