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Movie Screening and Panel Discussion on the Topic of Sustainable Digitization


Picture: Dr. Mahnaz Parian-Scherb

On January 25, 2023, the second edition of the event series "Digitization - what now?" organized by uptownBasel and the interdisciplinary Responsible Digital Society Research Network (RDS) of the University of Basel took place. This time, the film screening followed by a panel discussion focused on the question of sustainability of modern information and communication technologies.

About 50 guests from politics, research, education, and business attended the exclusive film screening on the topic "The Hidden Side of Digitalization - How Much Energy Do We Need for Our Information and Communication Technologies?". After the greeting of the guests by Baschi Dürr (CEO of the uptownBasel Group), the broadcast of the documentary "Stromfresser Internet. Die Schattenseiten der Digitalisierung" followed, a production of Zweiten Deutschen Rundfunk (ZDF) for the planet e format.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Urs Gredig (Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen). The discussion centered on the energy demand of the ongoing digitalization and how this process can be made as sustainable as possible. The panel consisted of Kim Maike Berrendorf (Sustainability Manager of the Baloise Group), Freddy Bürkli (Head of New Business & Head Unit Cybersecurity at Axians Switzerland), and Professor Dr. Florina Ciorba (Professor of High Performance Computing at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Basel).

The panel discussed many aspects of the debate with active participation from the audience. There was agreement on the assumption that digitalization will not be reversed and that this cannot be the goal: "Humans have never voluntarily cut back on their achievements and we can assume that this will not be the case here either," said Kim Maike Berrendorf. Florina Ciorba agreed that "digitalization is here to stay". Nevertheless, the sense of use in terms of limited resources must be taken into account. Both private and commercial and industrial consumers should always ask themselves "is this necessary, is this efficient?" as Freddy Bürkli does both professionally and privately. More transparency is needed here. "Labels like we have in the food industry could be an option. This way, private households can make more environmentally friendly decisions," he finds. Ultimately, the problems could also be part of the solution. For example, the waste heat from the data centers needed for the digital transformation is already being used in many places for local heating. An measure taken by uptownBasel: the area will be connected to the Basel-Landschaft District Heating Network in 2023. In addition, both data centers and end devices are becoming more efficient and environmentally friendly. This helps, but also leads to more and more people using digital devices and services. "To be able to say based on evidence where we can best address the problem, we need - you guessed it - more data," summarizes Florina Ciorba.

After the discussion, all present had the opportunity to ask questions and participate in further discussions. The event series "Digitalization - and what now?" will continue in 2023 with further topics and guests.