Saving the world through software - Microsoft's green agenda

Software and the internet can play a great part in efforts to help the environment - as they did in winning the US Presidential election for Barack Obama.

This was the message of Jan Meuhlfeit, Microsoft's European chairman, when he spoke at a conference bringing together global business leaders in London this week.

Speaking at Green Strategy 08, Mr Meuhlfeit said that th4e huge public support - and funding - raised by Obama's campaign via the internet should be a lesson to those involved in the environmental movement.

"This is the first time that the internet and technology have played a key role [in the US elections]," he said.

"Obama has said he collected 86% of the money for his campaign through the internet.

"If we're serious about the environment we should definitely use this way too."

He said the internet, although only 6,000 days old, was already shaping history and had a lot more still to offer.

"This is the first time in human history when the young generation uses current technology much better than [the previous] generation," he said.

"And I do believe that this generation is much more environmentally aware, so this will have a positive effect on society."

While the benefits of the net as medium to get the message across were obvious, he said, that was not all the IT industry had to offer.

He spoke of the magic of software, highlighting how virtual meetings, conferences and other communication technologies could massively reduce the need for transport, thus reducing energy use and carbon emissions.

He also recognised the IT industry's need to cut its own energy consumption and gave examples of how Microsoft itself was doing this.

A new data centre in Dublin, for example, will use only 50-70% of the energy of equivalent facilities due to investments in energy efficiency technology while Microsoft's base of operations in Reading is run on energy entirely from renewable sources.

The company's latest operating system, Vista, is also more energy efficient than its Windows predecessors, he said, and while that might not make much difference on a computer-by-computer scale, it soon adds up when one considers how many machines around the world are running on an MS platform.

100 million PCs running Vista rather than previous Windows incarnations, he said, was equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road in terms of CO2 emissions.

Sam Bond



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