CANDISE: Change-Oriented Assessments for Net-Zero Digital Services

Project Details


The overall project aim is to investigate a new framework for anticipating the systemic, long-term environmental impact in digital infrastructure from changes to the design, operation, and use of digital services.
With discernible effects of climate change manifesting globally, immediate reduction of carbon emissions is crucial. The UK aims to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, of which around 4% come from the ICT sector. The UN sector body for ICT (ITU) has set decarbonisation goals of 45% by 2030 - while demand for ICT services continues to grow from increased uptake of new and better services.
The ICT companies that operate datacentres and networks, and those companies that provide digital software services 'on-top' of the physical internet infrastructure begin to set their own Net Zero goals of carbon emission reductions. Now they each need to implement these goals through concrete reduction strategies based on specific changes.
However, the knowledge of what changes to software services will reliably result in carbon reductions is missing, as the existing understanding ignores the interactions between the complex, highly dynamic ICT supply chains underlying digital services. Currently, an accounting perspective is implicit in reasoning about and estimating current carbon impacts and which forms the basis for deciding how to reduce carbon. This is deeply problematic.
This project aims to create the missing causal understanding and investigate a framework for anticipating the systemic, long-term environmental impact from changes to the design, provision, and use of digital services and provide a step-improvement to our ability to pursue Net-Zero goals. Our project team represents the entire vertical stack of technologies that form the ICT product system, from user-facing digital services to network and datacentre operators. We have the experience and capacity to investigate ways to reason about and assess the longer-term carbon impact from decisions taken by users, software providers, and infrastructure operators.
Software providers have a freedom in the design and operation of their services through their choice of architecture and suppliers. They shape demand for peak performance of infrastructure paired with instant and constant availability and so co-evolve with cloud computing and networks. Software engineers and designers thus need an understanding of how their decisions drive carbon emissions long-term - so they know e.g. What carbon savings come from reducing video resolution? What is the real carbon benefit from pre-loading content off-peak? Etc.
With our partners that operate some of the world's largest ICT services, we study how environmental impact is driven by choices taken during software design, operation and use. From this, we investigate a framework that can support designers and developers. This will unlock innovation from a systemic, causal understanding and provide a step-improvement to our ability to pursue Net-Zero goals.
CANDISE is funded by the EPSRC through award EP/X038858/1.
Effective start/end date1/02/2431/01/27


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