Green IT: Government's Silent Spring

Green IT: Government's Silent Spring

by / April 13, 2008

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."
- Rachel Carson

For those who worry about the environment, there's usually a turning point when the issue begins affecting our everyday thinking and activities. For me, it was reading Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. These environmental literature classics opened my eyes to nature's beauty and fragility, and the powerful but ultimately degrading impact modern society has on the environment if we don't act to protect it.

Contributing writer George Beard had an environmental epiphany after hearing a news report about a massive floating landfill of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. Nearly the size of Texas, the vast expanse of waste - the Pacific Trash Vortex - shocked Beard into thinking more critically about what happens to "e-waste."

His article in this issue, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, examines the problems everybody - particularly CIOs - faces when safely disposing of electronic devices. Without any strong federal regulations, we're left with a patchwork of programs run by a few states, nonprofit groups and green-friendly IT companies. To help fill the vacuum, Beard gives CIOs strategies to tackle this growing problem of toxic refuse.

Paul Taylor's Finding the C in Green examines the CIO's role in creating a green government. Again, lack of a federal policy has left the issue with state legislatures (and a few big-city mayors and councils) to discuss and debate the policies and strategies needed for a more energy-efficient, sustainable public sector. Since IT will be a major factor in making this happen, what's the CIO's role? Do they take on the Chief Green Officer mantle? As Taylor points out, the answer isn't clear.

Letter to the Editor:
A Nov. 15, 2007 online article, "CIO ... Systems Integrator," showcased Utah's efforts to modernize its health and human services eligibility determination system. Forrester Research and Gartner have lauded Utah's system as a model for implementing such large-scale, multi-agency systems.

The article, however, misrepresented the state's relationship with a systems integrator on this project. To maintain budget and move the project forward, Utah took on the burden of integrator and has been working out system kinks internally. While some perceived this role to be a disadvantage, Utah saw it as an opportunity to move the business of social services forward, ensuring a cost-effective solution. Utah is proud of its groundbreaking approach to better deliver social services to its citizens, and values the work it has accomplished while working with its private partners, Curam and IBM.

J. Stephen Fletcher
Chief Information Officer, Utah


Tod Newcombe Features Editor