Digital sobriety:
aiming at a responsible streaming

All studies confirm the negative impact of digital technology on the environment and the October 2020 report by The Shift Project
“Deploying digital sobriety” sounds the alarm. It also proposes a methodology to limit this environmental impact.

The impact of Digital

All the studies confirm the negative impact of digital technology on the environment and the October 2020 report by The Shift Project “Deploying Digital Sobriety” sounds the alarm. It also proposes a methodology to limit this environmental impact.

In today’s great awareness, it seems impossible to continue to ignore this dangerous paradox: our societies are trying to mobilize to fight against all forms of pollution, and persist in developing new uses and digital products that worsen the problem.

Digital technology emits an alarming volume of greenhouse gases (3.7% of the world’s volume) and its overconsumption of mineral resources will soon become unsustainable. Through a collective awareness that is gradually taking the form of demands, we need to question our more or less thoughtful postures and habits towards digital technology.

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Aiming at digital sobriety 

The notion of sobriety refers on the one hand to its opposite, drunkenness, which is the consequence of a consumption that is not adapted to the equilibrium of a system, and on the other hand to the restrictive attitude that one opposes to it, once the irrelevance and the negative effects of this ill-supported consumption are noted.

The environmental impact of digital technology is that of its excessive energy consumption, whether in electricity, raw materials and intrinsic energy (energy necessary for the entire life of a material from its extraction to its recycling) as well as in waste production.

It is estimated that streaming, viewing and downloading of music, videos and games, will soon represent 80% of the world’s digital traffic. In order to achieve digital sobriety, it is therefore urgent to significantly reduce the production of CO2 streaming. But nothing is simple, as the arrival of 5G or the generalization of very high speed broadband, for example, will greatly increase the volume of data transfer and electricity consumption, even when the improvement in the user experience is minimal or not perceptible.

Questioning the use of information technology

The conception of a responsible digital has become necessary, and for this it is necessary to re-examine the whole of the technique, the practice and the material.

The major argument for the development of digital technologies was that dematerialization reduced the impact of communication on traditional media, paper and transport, to which we can add plastic for music, films and videos. The costs have dropped considerably, which by rebound effect, increased consumption and flows. And it turns out that today there is no trace of environmental benefit, but rather a general alarm.

The technology is already deployed and it is difficult in the economic logic that governs us, not to use what we know. Thus, according to the CIGREF report, the prerequisites of the approach are mainly in a culture to be developed, in the commitment of leaders, as well as in the redesign of architectures and infrastructures.

Streamlike is an eco-designed enterprise video platform deployed on a green datacenter and in the cloud, which implements digital sobriety strategies and practices intelligent and resource-efficient adaptive streaming.

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The deployment of responsible digital strategies

In 2018, an article in the Journal du CNRS (“Numérique le grand gâchis énergétique” by L. Cailloce) quoted F. Berthoud: “If we consider its entire life cycle, the simple sending of an email of one megabyte (1 MB) is equivalent to the use of a 60-watt light bulb for 25 minutes, which is the equivalent of 20 grams of CO2 emitted.” This is an often repeated quote which has the great merit of concretizing the problem and giving a first track for a simple and economic action.

So in practice, in the case of e-mail, it will be a question of making it as light as possible and therefore very short, sent to a limited number of people, without superfluous attachments, in text format and without paper printing. It is undoubtedly in an approach of this style that both companies and individuals can commit themselves, for e-mail, but also for the distribution of heavy media which solicits an excessively energy-consuming chain of data centers, network equipment and terminals.

For a responsible digital use able to reduce its harmful footprint, it is first of all a question of making the whole society aware of the dangers and the good practices. The responsible company can have a major impact, especially since it is already – in principle – in a virtuous culture through the CSR (corporate social responsibility) approach. Regarding the practice of responsible streaming, Streamlike, your video host, is at your disposal to help you adopt the right gestures.

Sustainable digital technology, a commitment by all

Raising awareness within the company is necessary but not sufficient. Individual action is just as essential, because even if video-conferencing and distance learning are becoming more widespread, it is still entertainment (music, films, games, etc.) that accounts for 80% of global flows. From an individual point of view, it is a question of adopting a “digitally responsible” behavior; no doubt this is a culture that needs to be invented and adopted. On the other hand, contributing to digital sobriety is part of the big issue of the ecological transition. But this expression is political, and even if the uses become virtuous and the company responsible, even if the individual modifies his practices, nothing will be possible without limits fixed by the law.

With its media hosting and broadcasting offer, Streamlike is already part of virtuous behaviors and responsible digital design. Guaranteeing control over your professional video library gives you control over your data storage, distribution, content circulation and carbon footprint. The opposite of social networks and consumer solutions…

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