Now here's an idea that makes sense: a follow up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December. Or, to be more accurate, a series of follow ups, none of which requires much travel. A company called G2Events plans to put on a series of three online conferences which include exhibit booths, presentations (from organisations small and large), telepresence-based panel discussions, meeting rooms and downloadable materials. Called Sustainability Virtual Summits, it is entirely digital – totally in keeping with its name.
Each event intends to have specific focus areas in order to maximise the chance of a meaningful exchange of views. The idea is for the first, in February, to concentrate on virtualisation and dematerialisation and how ICT can get its own act together (my words, not the organiser's). The second, in May, plans to concentrate on smart motor systems and smart logistics. The third, in August, intends to cover smart buildings, smart grids and water and sanitation. The plan is for each event to concentrate on the role of ICT in delivering sustainability benefits.
Why should we have mini-summits following the big one in Copenhagen? Well, to be blunt, you can only achieve so much at these big events. If the delegates agree on a post-Kyoto protocol and all get their pictures taken looking pleased with themselves, (preferably while standing next to Barack Obama) then that's about it. The real work takes place in all the organisations that are obliged to live up to the greenhouse gas promises that eventually get made.
The truth, though, is that we're in disarray. For example, last week I looked at ten different carbon calculators. They gave ten different results. (Choose one and stick with it if you want to monitor your progress.) But wouldn't it be better if we could all agree on some standards? This is one of the reasons these follow up events have been proposed. Participants should get a chance to review and discuss these and many other sustainability-related issues.
The aim is for each 'conference' to be a day long, covering three time zones. After the initial three days, the live debate is planned to continue for 30 days. The idea is that all the material will be left online for a further 90 days. In theory, this could become a substantial resource for anyone seeking a genuine understanding of the issues around ICT and sustainability. It would be nice to think that some global understanding will emerge. If positions polarise, at least everyone can see what's going on and know where further effort needs to be applied. Hopefully, a lot of bonding will take place among movers and shakers around the world, providing the right people participate and take notice.
As anyone who's visited Second Life will attest, that experience can be quite unpleasant. The virtual summits intend to be very different. They are photo-realistic for a start. A little bit of downloading will be needed before you get into the conference so, presumably, a lot of the rendering will be done inside your own computer. A company called Design Reactor has been retained to take care of the technical aspects and, looking at some event work it did for Hewlett Packard, the technical omens are good. You can also see a dummy of the Sustainability Summit site here.
Although this is a commercial activity, its heart seems to be in the right place. It is independent. It has found some good sponsoring organisations. Exhibitor booths are not expected to cost very much. It is targeting a smallish audience – around 5,000 quality visitors drawn from CSR/sustainability execs, c-level, data centre managers, supply chain, product development, finance and marketing. It appears to be a good event to drop in on during the 30 day 'discussion period'. I'm guessing that this where the fun will begin. It's also where people with implementation experience are expected to contribute their insights.