Digital economy

OECD countries agree to tackle global environmental challenges through information and communication technologies (ICTs)



Boosting sustainable economic growth is high on government agendas. The Recommendation of the OECD Council on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the Environment supports governments to increase the environmental benefits of ICT applications and improve environmental impacts of ICTs. As governments embark on Green Growth paths, this recommendation addresses areas where public sector action can help overcome shortcomings identified in OECD reports on ICT and the environment . OECD analysis shows that most “Green ICT” initiatives concentrate on the direct effects of ICTs themselves rather than tackling climate change and environmental degradation through the use of ICTs as an enabling or “smart” technology (see Figure 1 below).

Graham Vickery, OECD, on Green ICTs and the Recommendation (English, 1:13)


The OECD Recommendation lays out a 10-point check list on how governments can employ ICTs to enhance national environmental performance. It encourages cross-sector co-operation and knowledge exchange on resource-efficient ICTs and “smart” applications, and highlights the importance of governments supporting R&D and innovation. By doing so, governments send positive signals for private sector investments. “Smart” electricity grid technologies for example have been receiving government attention and have attracted venture capital investments during the crisis, despite overall clean technologies seeing a dip (see Figure 2).


This Recommendation applies to OECD countries and non-members. It is part of the wider OECD work developing a Green Growth Strategy to guide government policies. Governments and stakeholders will discuss related strategies at this year’s OECD Forum 2010 – “Road to Recovery: Innovation, Jobs & Clean Growth”.


Figure 1. Number of “Green ICT” initiatives, by life cycle phase

Source: OECD, 2009, “Towards Green ICT Strategies: Assessing Policies and Programmes on ICT and the Environment”, DSTI/ICCP/IE(2008)3/FINAL.


Figure 2. Growth of global venture capital, smart grids compared with all clean technologies, indices (2005 = 1.0)

Source: OECD calculations, based on data by Cleantech Group.




For comments on the OECD recommendation on ICTs and the environment, please contact

Taylor REYNOLDS, Head of the Information Economy Group
Taylor.Reynolds [at]
+33 1 45 24 93 84.



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