Focus on sustainability in IT studies Radboud University

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13 October 2022

Radboud University is going to emphasize sustainability in all IT studies to improve awareness and improve IT growth. The topic of sustainability has been almost entirely lacking and that needs to change, says Associate Professor of Computer Science Bernard van Gastel in AG Connect.

The university, based in Nijmegen, has divided the subject of sustainability into four spearheads: climate neutral, circularity, healthy environment (vitality and biodiversity) and equal opportunities. There is no stand-alone course covering ‘sustainability’, it is integrated into existing courses. Van Gastel: “With big data, for example, we pay attention to what data you store and why, and what analyses you perform on it. And how do you structure data in a way that you can run energy-efficient operations on it?” This is important because a lot of energy is consumed in the storage, movement and processing of data.

Extending the lifespan of hardware

It’s not just about energy consumption, according to Van Gastel, extending the life of equipment is also important to reduce e-waste. It is often wrongly assumed, according to Van Gastel, that new hardware is more sustainable because it is more energy efficient than older hardware. “The leeway is now out of that Moore’s Law. And the improvements in energy efficiency are flattening out as well. We do have more transistors in a chip now, but they haven’t become much more energy efficient,” he says. “The world is facing a climate crisis, the effects of which are becoming more and more apparent. In addition, the Netherlands is experiencing an energy shortage, which could slow down IT growth. So dealing smartly with energy is also a point of attention for many organizations for that reason.”

“By making software different, you save energy. The software controls the hardware, just like a driver controls a car. You don’t see that awareness in the normal curriculum. So it’s not on anyone’s radar and there’s no expertise in it. That’s a shame and that needs to change.”

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