number of quick wins."

Green Future
NASCIO's Robinson predicted green IT will gain prominence in the public sector as energy costs climb. Part of government's sluggishness on the issue stems from the fact that many agency data centers are renovated state office buildings that weren't built to be data centers. Many of these buildings aren't conducive to the rack-mounted servers, blade servers and storage area network arrays that energy-efficient data centers contain.

Due to the bureaucracy involved in building their own data centers, many governments may get greener by outsourcing data center operations to energy-efficient contractors, said Robinson.

"It's a capital construction project, and it can take many years to get it approved," Robinson explained. Governments unable to approve those projects would likely outsource to vendors with green data centers.

Many state and local governments remain quiet about their green IT research for now, according to James Costa, vice president of government industry for IBM. He said many don't want to publicize their efforts without completing their needs assessments.

"If you're talking 12 months from now, you'll see that three or four state governments have major efforts in this area they've actually had results from," Costa said.

Di Maio said energy-efficient data centers would be an easy first step for green IT in government. Green data centers already have well established designs, and the cost savings are obvious. The next challenge will be implementing green initiatives that don't necessarily reduce energy bills, but promote green values. An example would be a more environmentally friendly disposal process for computers.

Green IT will have different meanings for different government agencies, based on what produces each agency's "carbon footprint," said Di Maio. For example, the carbon footprint of an agency mostly composed of employees using computers would come from electricity consumption. Energy-efficient data centers and computers would be the focus of green activities for those agencies.

On the other hand, the overall carbon footprint of an agency focused on managing fleets of trucks comes from internal combustion engines. So rather than reducing data center energy consumption, that agency might deploy software that helps the agency use vehicles more efficiently.

Financial motivations are a start, Di Maio added, but only a cultural change will make government IT truly green.

Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former staff writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.