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Smart Lunch: lunch on the theme of Sustainable IT

27 April 2022

On Tuesday 22 March, the Smart City Office of the Brussels-Capital Region returned with its "Smart Lunches" sessions, the aim of which is to allow Brussels local authorities to discuss and be inspired by various experiences associated with the Smart City and implemented around the Region. Stakeholders from the quadruple helix - academia, business, public authorities and citizens - take turns as speakers. A look back at the ninth edition devoted to Sustainable IT!

After the traditional introduction by Mr Bernard Clerfayt, Brussels Minister for Digital Transition, Thierry Chappe, Green IT manager at BRIC presented the societal and, above all, environmental challenges of digital technology. He began his presentation with a definition of the global digital technology infrastructure (terminals, networks, data centres) and focused on one of the most striking figures of the last few years which has resulted in massive global awareness: CO2 emissions from the digital technology sector now account for 4% of global emissions and today exceed those of the aviation sector. The environmental footprint of the world's digital technology infrastructure is spread over the entire life cycle of equipment: 60% during manufacturing, 5% during transport, 25% during use and 10% at end of life. 
Mr Chappe then outlined some key figures: 
- manufacturing a smartphone, for example, requires the equivalent of four trips around the world;
- the share of the digital technology infrastructure in global electricity consumption varies between 10% and 15%; 
- the average time of use for a computer has been divided by three in 30 years.

He also presented in detail the creation of four inter-administration working groups (WGs) by the Brussels Regional Informatics Centre, which are studying the concrete implementation of solutions in organisations based on the four major themes of Sustainable IT: hardware, eco-design, IT for green and awareness. The outputs and best practices of each group will be shared with all the region's public administrations.

Finally, he insisted on the need to act on all dimensions at the same time and on several immediate solutions for improvement for all citizens and administrations:
- Learn about Sustainable IT in Belgium on dedicated networks, such as the ISIT; 
- Include "Sustainable IT" criteria in public procurement contracts for IT equipment and services; 
- Follow training courses; 
- Organise a "digital mural" workshop as an awareness-raising tool within your company. 

The second speaker, Didier Appels, Impact & Business Director, described the circular opportunities his company, Close The Gap, offers for computers. The international non-profit organisation helps to bridge the digital divide by distributing IT equipment (from European and international companies) in developing countries. The organisation not only provides computers, but also teacher training, educational software (online) and technical support (local and remote). Socio-educational programmes (such as schools, hospitals and other projects focused on improving education and information services) can request support from Close the Gap.

The company is also active in Belgium and, for example, distributed laptops to more than 15,000 Belgian students during the health crisis as well as to flood victims in the summer of 2021. The positive environmental impact of Close The Gap is huge as the company prolongs the lifespan of laptops by up to 5 years in some cases. 

The third speaker, Natacha Louis, Project Officer at Repair Together, presented the work of the Repair Cafés: learn to repair together instead of throwing away. Repair Together aims to pool the resources required to create, develop and maintain the 225 or so "Repair Cafés" in Belgium, in Brussels and Wallonia.
Repair Together also organises training courses on repairs designed to increase the expertise of volunteer repairers, as well as activities based on the circular economy. These activities are aimed at schools as well as the general public and can be organised in the frame of events or on request. 

Repair Together is part of a much wider transition towards a more circular economy and the fight against planned obsolescence. The organisation mobilises its strengths and resources, in collaboration with the sector's other stakeholders, in a militant movement for a globally recognised "right to repair". Created in spring 2013, following the opening of the very first Belgian Repair Café in Ixelles in 2012, the Belgian version of Repair Together was the first to export the concept initially launched in the Netherlands in 2009.

Finally, for the local authorities, Ms Sophie de Vos, First Alderman for Public Spaces, Mobility, Culture, Libraries and Citizen Participation from the municipality of Auderghem, had the opportunity, together with Maroussia del Marmol, Director of the non-profit association Le Centre de Formation 2 mille (CF2m), to present the actions undertaken by her municipality. Ms de Vos began her presentation by citing the various figures which brought the subject of digital technology pollution to her attention: more than 3.2 million unused phones are in circulation in Belgium and only 1% to 5% of them are recycled. 

Therefore, in 2019, a collaboration with a company specialising in the circular economy, CF2m, was initiated and large-scale operations aimed at recovering old electronic devices were organised by placing secure containers at the town hall and at the four municipal schools. 

CF2m's action consists in reconditioning used computer equipment which can be recycled and redistributed mainly in the socio-educational sector. The company also ensures traceability. Non-reusable parts are dismantled in workshops in Brussels. This work is carried out by staff in integration trained as recycling waste handlers.

With two question-and-answer sessions, this Smart Lunch was particularly rewarding when it came to discussing best practices! Are you interested in participating in forthcoming meetings? Contact Tanguy de Lestré without delay!
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