Ontario government needs channel support to go green

The Ontario government has bold plans for it strategic greening agenda, bold green plans which will put the use of information technology by the public sector from and centre in both current use and future procurement.

Neil Sentence, assistant deputy minister, OPS Green Office in the Ministry of Government Services, told attendees at an event on doing business with the Ontario Public Service sponsored by IT World Canada and ITAC that the IT industry is already ahead of the public service when it comes to sustainability and greening in many respects, so the government will be leaning on the industry and the channel for best practices as well as green IT solutions.

“You’re leaders in many respects with respect to transforming your own internal organizations as well as developing solutions to help other organizations in greening their organizations,” said Sentence.

The government has a three-pronged strategy to achieve its commitments as part of Ontario’s climate change action plan, with the goals of reducing emissions, supporting broader government commitments to tackle climate change, and secure Ontario’s economic future.

“We want to very much make sure we’re looking at the green agenda with the innovation agenda with the efficiency agenda, because they all go together,” said Sentence.

The three pillars of the strategy are investing in ourselves, measuring our performance, and accountability for results. The OPS green office is focused on internal government operations and the need to “walk the walk” said Sentence. By being more sustainable in its own operations, the government hopes to demonstrate leadership on the file.

A key focus is ensuring the government’s green strategies can be sustained over time and can be measured for results.

“When you’re talking about greening, it’s not just a multi-year commitment but a multi-generational commitment,” said Sentence. “IF we’re actually serious about taking us to 2010 or 2030, we’re going to have to hire staff, and they’ll have to hire staff that are serious about this. Leaders and strategies will come and go, so we need to change the culture.”

Reducing printing will be a priority, as will fostering electronic collaboration and reducing travel. The Ontario government is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2014, and 15 per cent by 2020. Reducing travel will be a big part of that, but

Sentence said 75 per cent of the government’s carbon footprint is created by its buildings, so smarter buildings will be critical to hitting the targets.

A lifecycle asset management approach is also being taken to procurement and asset management that looks not just at the operation of IT equipment, but its acquisition and disposal as well.

Sentence added they’re working now to move from strategy to implementation by setting targets, and as they do they’ll need streamlined tracking and measuring capabilities. Rather than generating reports, he’d like to see technology to enable real-time dishoarding in sustainability objectives.

Reducing power consumption will be another priority, and here the IT industry will be in the cross-hairs.

“The focus is on IT because, frankly, you guys and your equipment consume a lot of power,” said Sentence. “We have tens of thousands of devices out there consuming electricity. We want to figure out how we can substantially reduce that power consumption.”

Much of that will come from device consolidation, such as using multi-function devices were appropriate. Attention will be paid to power-management, putting devices into stand-by mode when not in use. Savings will also come from culling unnecessary equipment. As part of the last energy conservation week, Sentence said his department unplugged 562 of its 597 devices, and didn’t miss many of them. In fact, 62 are still unplugged.

“Our future is far fewer devices, and less standalone analogue devices,” said Sentence. “By consolidating printers and faxes, the average office could reduce equipment energy consumption by 50 per cent.”

Ontario is also focused on reducing paper consumption through rules on when and when not to print, a culture change around printing less, tools to foster secure electronic collaboration, and smarter use of technology, such as duplex printing.

The government also wants to reduce e-waste, and is aiming for 100 per cent e-waste diversion. As well, video conferencing to reduce travel is a priority, and Sentence hinted the province may be considering a government-wide video conferencing solution.

“We need to think strategically about Web casting and conferencing, and we need to move from point solutions to something truly enterprise in scope and service, cost effective and very powerful,” said Sentence. “This is an area where, if we don’t do it, we won’t drive permanent business change. Preventing travel from coming back will only happen with process change and technology.”

In many areas of its sustainability strategy, said Sentence, the Ontario government will be relying on support from the IT vendor and channel community. A robust technology solution will be an important part of measuring sustainability progress, IT will be critical in power management and reducing paper, in collaboration and video conferencing, and in video management.

“These are all areas where your solutions will make incredible contributions to reducing our demands as consumers within the organization,” said Sentence. “Please be energy and energy-efficiency focused in your solutions because that’s going to be crucial to us. Historically, IT has talked about performance, price point, ease of deployment. I’m really bugging them to consider energy efficiency too.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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