Upgrade aims to help the environment

Sustainability goals are a test for federal agencies, writes Trevor Clarke.

Sustainability goals are a test for federal agencies, writes Trevor Clarke.

The largest federal government agencies are set to undergo a wholesale renovation of their computer hardware this year, in the process edging closer to achieving their "sustainable information and communications technology [ICT] targets".

The aggressive projects that involve replacing ageing PCs and printers, while typically part of a standard refresh program, are also being pursued in order to hit sustainable ICT targets set in the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010-15.

The plan aims to "improve environmental performance and reduce carbon emissions across government and the ICT industry". It aligns with other government targets including the commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent of 2000 levels by 2050.

The Department of Human Services will replace 30,000 PCs by the end of 2013, upgrading its entire fleet to Windows 7. It has already replaced 10,000, a department spokesperson said. The Taxation Office is also expected to upgrade more than 20,000 PCs to Windows 7 by the end of the year in a project that was first publicised in the first half of 2012.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is in the process of decommissioning more than 1000 desktops and 300 laptops, which will not be replaced.

"DEEWR expects this activity to result in a ratio of 1.39 devices to every user by July 2013," a spokesperson said.

Other agencies have already undergone or are currently working on similar refreshes.

On their sustainable wish-list were a maximum of 1.4 desktop devices per employee by July 2012, lowering to 1.2 per employee by July 2015; a 90-plus per cent shutdown rate for devices overnight; and one printer/copier per 14 desktops by mid-2011 and per 20 desktops by July 2015.

The plan also aimed to cut office paper usage to 13 reams per employee per annum by July 2012 and nine reams by 2015. One ream is approximately 500 sheets of A4 paper.

Data compiled by IT Pro on nine of the 10 largest federal government agencies - the ABS did not provide all data - shows eight of the agencies have already hit the July 2012 device-to-employee ratio with only DEEWR set to come in a year late.

However, due to varying reasons including operational demands, most do not have an automatic shutdown policy and process in place, relying instead on sleep mode or employee diligence and failing to meet the shutdown target.

Additionally only four of the largest agencies, Immigration, Health and Ageing, DEEWR, and Innovation, achieved the July 2012 copier/printer-to-desktop ratio target. Excluding Immigration, which did not provide data on paper use, three of the largest agencies - Defence, Human Services and DEEWR have yet to achieve their July 2012 targets with current usage rates of about 18, 15.4 and 14 reams per employee respectively.

A mid-term review of the sustainability plan is understood to be currently under way.

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