Michael Oghia

Transparency Meets Sustainability: Announcing the SDIA Open Data Hub

Michael Oghia
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Last month, the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA) announced our Open Data Hub, a resource that's meant to boost transparency, trust, and data availability to help researchers, industry, and society realise a sustainable digital economy. It is essentially our answer to the challenge recognised across the sector: that the lack of reliable data is one of the most foundational issues we face in creating a sustainable ICT ecosystem. It's also a way for us to create a new precedent for regulators and policymakers by helping to facilitate inclusive, data-driven policy-making. We're excited to share that announcement with the RIPE community, and invite you to support the Open Data Hub as a Sponsor and/or Ambassador.

From the ambitious European Green Deal strategies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the urgency to make sustainability a central pillar of business strategy has never been greater. This fact was only further reinforced earlier this week with the landmark IPCC report, which itself was punctuated by raging wildfires across Southeastern Europe and the recent floods in Western Europe.

Around the world, and indeed, within the RIPE NCC service region, consumers are prioritising sustainability. Study after study demonstrates that adopting sustainability practices decreases costs while making businesses more competitive, further reinforcing the fact that sustainability is good for people, profit, and the planet – a point I’ve consistently highlighted on RIPE Labs.

For customers especially, sustainability is built on trust and openness. From supply chain management to consumer outreach, building trust is critical to brand promotion and can easily undercut efforts to win over new markets given the speed of information flows. Transparency is a significant facilitator of trust, one that not only has the ability to boost perception but also promote innovation. Thus, the value that transparency brings to companies today in demonstrating trustworthiness, helping consumers make informed decisions, and ultimately driving sustainability efforts forward cannot be understated. Yet, it requires another key ingredient: data.

Transparency for the Digital Economy

Data has been labelled as the oil of the 21st century – a somewhat ironic moniker given that so much of today’s digital ecosystem is still powered by fossil fuels. Or at least that is the standard public narrative, despite the digital sector being the top purchaser of renewable energy. Are data centres, for instance, the energy hogs they are made out to be or actually pioneering the energy transition?

The answer is paramount, but the dearth of available, trusted, systemic data is one of the greatest challenges to transparency and tracking progress that the digital sector faces – especially in light of the increasing scrutiny it attracts and the subsequent calls by governments and society to decarbonise. Specifically, we lack reliable, real-time data gathered from facilities such as data centres, products such as Internet-connected devices, or any other part of the digital value chain that can be used to assess its environmental impacts or gauge sustainability targets. That challenge is precisely what the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA) – a nonprofit network of more than 65 organisations working to catalyse the transition to a sustainable digital economy, which I joined earlier this year – is working to solve.

To do that, however, we need your help.

We are in the process of building an Open Data Hub to chart the path toward a sustainable future and help us realise our Roadmap to Sustainable Digital Infrastructure by 2030. Open data hubs are online portals that offer easily accessible datasets to support transparency, industry-wide innovation, and new technologies and business model development.

Inspired by and modeled after similar open data hubs used in other industries, such ENTSO-E, UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Climate Action Note, electricityMap, and Climate TRACE, the SDIA Open Data Hub will draw on reliable, real-time data and other information shared by our members and partners along with other interested stakeholders to offer aggregated, anonymised, and standardised industry-wide reporting via an intuitive platform that does not reveal business-sensitive information while still creating transparency for governments and society.

The SDIA Open Data Hub intends to capture the full suite of lifecycle metrics outlined in our Roadmap, including emissions, energy consumption, electronic waste, resource consumption, pollution, the embedded carbon of server hardware, and more to deliver, among other things, information. This will not only generate invaluable data such as server/data center idle (SIC/DIC) coefficients and carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) calculations for data center operators, IXP managers, IT hardware providers, fibre- and network operators, consumers, regulators, researchers, and a host of other stakeholders from both the RIPE community as well as from around the world, but will establish the foundation of our work to create a digital carbon footprint that spans across the entire value chain and continuously assess it.

SDIA Open Data Hub: Maximum Benefit at Minimal Cost

Launching in 2022 as a public beta, there are multiple reasons why the SDIA Open Data Hub will offer value to a variety of stakeholders. As a first step, we will primarily focus on where most of the virtual world meets the physical, such as data centres, but our Open Data Hub is built for all stakeholders operating across the digital value chain. All that is required is your commitment to transparency and sustainability. Some of the benefits of participating in our Open Data Hub include:

  • Voluntary transparency that focuses on aggregate data and protects business-critical data while creating a new precedent for regulators and policymakers.
  • New industry benchmarks drawing on performance and energy efficiency data.
  • Enabling industry-wide research by providing accurate data to researchers who can, in turn, help further develop the sector as a whole.
  • More holistic understanding and use of IT infrastructure to generate new business for the data center that turns a potential threat into an exciting opportunity.
  • Catalysing innovation via new business models that focus on increasing utilisation, delivering cost savings, and therefore increasing efficiency.
  • Accessing new products and services built with and implemented into the Open Data Hub.

We are also developing specific benefits for partners of our Open Data Hub including an official Transparency Certification (similar to other industry standards such as the EPEAT ecolabel), automated compliance tools and reporting dashboards, and support for third-party integrations, such as but certainly not limited to Interact.

Become a Sponsor or Ambassador

As the list above demonstrates, there are myriad benefits to joining the SDIA Open Data Hub. By becoming a Sponsor of the Data Hub to support it financially and/or an Ambassador to spread the word, you will automatically become a transparency leader in the market, one that helps to shape its development going forward while developing trust, attracting sustainability-minded customers, and galvanizing data-driven government policy.

This vision is imperative to realizing our mission to build a sustainable digital economy, but we know it cannot manifest without your support. Help us make this happen by demonstrating that the real value of transparency goes beyond mere economics and truly has the power to change systems.

If you would like to learn more or become an Open Data Hub Sponsor or an Ambassador, please fill out this form. In case you have any questions, reach out to us here or leave a comment below. You can also see the original announcement here.

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About the author

Michael Oghia Based in Belgrade, Serbia

Michael J. Oghia is a Belgrade-based consultant, editor, researcher, speaker, and ICT sustainability advocate working within the digital policy & infrastructure, Internet governance, and media development ecosystems. He is a third culture kid (TCK) and a connector at heart with more than a decade of professional experience in conflict resolution, journalism & media, policy, and development across five countries: The United States, Lebanon, India, Turkey, and Serbia. Michael also loathes referring to himself in third person.

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