EU to declare war on business trips

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The European Commission will next week propose a set of recommendations to encourage the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to curb greenhouse gases emissions. Brussels will suggest that firms use more teleworking and cut down on business trips.

Viviane Reding, the EU's information society commissioner, announced the forthcoming recommendation in a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday (29 September).

One of the main proposals is to cut private business trips by 20%, replacing them with video conferences. This could "save more than 22 million tons of CO2 per year," according to one Commission official.

Video conferences and teleworking already represent an important alternative to commuting and travelling, although at the moment they are only marginally used. Many fear that current infrastructure will not be able to deal with a surge in the use of such services, which rely on super-fast Internet connections and higher bandwidth availability.

To tackle this potential lack of ICT infrastructure, the Commission will issue proposals before the end of the year on how to invest in optical fibre networks (so-called Next Generation Networks), which are expected to replace the existing mainly copper-based Internet infrastructure.

The recommendation, to be adopted by the EU executive on 8 October, also highlights the importance of using remote computers for office activities, a practice known as 'cloud computing'.

"Cloud computing is high on our agenda and we should find ways to help SMEs to take advantage of it," Commissioner Reding told MEPs yesterday.

Cloud computing refers to the usage of external servers to store data and to carry out a number of office activities. If properly used, this technological development could allow conspicuous savings, beneficial both for the environment and for the financial situation of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are currently suffering from tight credit markets and the recession.

According to figures provided by the Commission, using cloud computing could indeed lead to electricity savings of up to 80%. Firms could also spend less on buying hardware, relying on cheaper external computers. However, security and privacy problems related to clouds have not yet been conclusively solved (EurActiv 17/06/09).

Timeline: 
  • 8 Oct. 2009: Commission to publish recommendation on ICT for a greener economy.
  • Before end 2009: Commission intends to publish recommendation on fibre networks.
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