As the climate change alarm bells get louder, technology and digitalisation will come to our aid in 2022, predicts Telenor Research in its latest Tech Trends report. Green clouds, a battle for optimisation, and climate enlightenment through digital micro degrees and greenfluencers are some of the trends that will deliver a more sustainable future.
2021 is yet another year of extreme weather events and record-breaking temperatures. These underline the challenges humans, wildlife, and nature come face to face with a changing climate. Yet, despite the gloomy outlook, technological advancements and an accelerating digitalisation of society give reasons for hope.
“People everywhere are waking up to the need to act on climate change and environmental degradation. For us in Telenor, it is key to understand how technology can both avoid being part of the problem and help in the transition,” says Bjørn Taale Sandberg, Head of Telenor Research.
In the seventh edition of Telenor’s Tech Trends report, Sandberg and his team of researchers have taken a stab at forecasting how technological progress in 2022 can enable green transformation. The report also provides three tips to businesses on how they can avoid becoming victims of the ‘great resignation’ when the pandemic hopefully comes to a close:
The immense growth in data usage drives demand for energy. Edge data centres and 5G will help make data transfer more energy efficient.
As the digitalisation of society continues to accelerate, cloud computing has seen explosive growth. Moving data requires energy, and data centres globally account for more than one per cent of the world’s energy consumption. The good news is that Edge computing is expected to take over some of the workloads in the coming year.
“We predict that 5G networks worldwide will have the capability to do local breakout of data traffic to and from Edge data centres,” says Sandberg, who adds that the data centres themselves can be made energy efficient in many ways, including utilisation of excess heat and through sustainable local power harvesting, using solar panels and small windmills.
“We believe that energy efficient Edge data centres reachable from mobile devices over 5G networks will start popping up, at an increasing rate, in 2022. As a result, energy will also be saved in data distribution networks since part of the data traffic and electricity will be transferred locally only,” explains Sandberg.
Employees are not willing to wait for their companies to get climate friendly. They want to act, and they are impatient to learn how.
Just as modern careers require people to upskill continuously, climate change will require people, businesses, and societies to adapt to lifelong learning on sustainability. Environmental policy and regulation will also increase the demand for green job skills in 2022.
“A growing number of businesses will implement green micro-degrees and courses as part of their ‘curriculum’ to slake the green knowledge thirst among employees. The businesses that fail to facilitate opportunities to acquire green online learning credentials on-the-job risk being perceived as less attractive in the eyes of new talent,” predicts Sandberg.
Therefore, a wave of micro-degrees with a green shape will flood out through learning systems like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Udacity, and Khan Academy, the same way we see more educational institutions embrace planet-friendly values in their programs. We already see such online courses and degrees being offered and promoted by organisations worldwide, not least the United Nations and its agency UNESCO.
The greatest machine – the human brain – runs on a modest 20 watts. Now, the heat for optimisation is on for our electron guzzling gadgets and servers.
While ever greater numbers of electronic devices and solutions are enabling humans to lead more convenient lives, the International Energy Agency calls for smarter and more efficient electrical appliances. We believe the global need for greater energy efficiency will trigger an “optimisation of everything” battle between consumer electronics manufacturers.
“Devices consuming electricity now outnumber humans by four, and they will become even more dominant in the future. Since transforming our energy supply will take time, we need to optimise everything – not least the use of energy by our devices,” warns Sandberg.
Competition is already ongoing between chipmakers to reduce their products’ energy demand. One example is the M1 chipset used in Apple’s newest computers. We expect that this will be taken up in the much greater PC market – giving us both more efficient devices and devices that can run far longer on battery.
“Going forward, more companies will put enormous sums of money on the table to acquire the knowledge and assets needed to come out on top of the optimisation battle,” says Sandberg.
Influencers who ignore young people’s climate engagement dig their own social media grave.
While most social media trends serve little purpose other than to entertain, some, like the #BlackLivesMatter, bring about profound societal changes. In 2022, with recent disappointments from the UN’s Climate Conference (COP26) and a grim outlook in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report fresh in memory, we expect to see a new movement shape the world of social media – greenfluencing.
“An undergrowth of climate aware influencers and activists has emerged across niches on social media, and we believe their growing follower bases will be duly noticed by the influencer universe’s established elite,” explains Sandberg.
By tapping into both marketing and – hopefully – social considerations, the big social media stars in every sphere, from cooking and fashion to travel, makeup, and fitness, will start to greenfluence their millions of followers.
“Influencers who appear oblivious or indifferent to climate challenges will be perceived as outdated. Instead, followers will flock to influencers who demonstrate climate awareness regardless of niche. Marketers will turn their attention in the same direction,” predicts Sandberg.
Companies that don’t take the next generation’s expectations seriously risk facing the great resignation.
The home office is here to stay, but despite the benefits and obvious positive climate impact we get from reduced travel, research indicates that the pros do not outweigh the cons for everyone, especially the young. During the continuation of the pandemic, it will be tough for the young to establish and grow a personal network and acquire a general understanding of the corporate lingo and culture, as forming new social relations using only digital communication is much more challenging.
“As a consequence, many companies will in 2022 find that large groups of young employees who never got a proper onboarding are likely to struggle – unless good leadership is exercised,” says Sandberg, and points to the following three tips on how to lead the next generation through the future way of work:
Bring joy to the office: Engineer social interaction across generations through events that trigger joy, discussion, and knowledge and insight transfer.
With age and tenure comes responsibility: Make it clear that the company veterans have a special obligation to include, mentor, and guide the new employees.
Make them shine: Be vocal and public when praising the newcomers for their efforts and provide them with the opportunities to speak and find their voice.