Digital transformation and sustainability: the union of the future

"Sustainable Coding' is the new research by the Foundation for Digital Sustainability. A handbook for software developers on best practices for an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable software development process, in line with the Agenda2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

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“Agenda2030 focuses on sustainable development in every aspect of society, so publishing a manifesto on Sustainable Coding is first and foremost about focusing on one of the many dimensions of development. Today, the creation of value passes through the intersection of digital technologies and sustainability, and the manifesto is intended to be a “warning to mariners” to help them navigate the seas of sustainable software development and shed light on the grey areas of technology,” commented Carlo Bozzoli, Global Coding Manager. – commented Carlo Bozzoli, Global CIO of Enel and promoter of the initiative.

“Software is increasingly central to any organisation, public or private, and to society in general,” said Stefano Epifani, President of the Foundation for Digital Sustainability. – said Stefano Epifani, President of the Foundation for Digital Sustainability. “The code it is composed of and the algorithms that regulate its functioning, impacting on choices, behaviour and decisions, have an increasing weight for individuals, institutions and companies in determining the conditions of environmental, economic and social sustainability. It is therefore important to design programmes that on the one hand are designed in accordance with sustainability criteria, but on the other are also drivers of environmental, economic and social sustainability,” concluded Stefano Epifani. – concluded Stefano Epifani.

The paper provides a structural re-reading of Agenda2030, proposing goals and targets inspired by those of Agenda2030 but rethought to make software systems design an activator of sustainable development processes.

The document mentions, for example, Goal 3: “Health and Well-being“, which recommends protecting the health of software developers and users both by ensuring that the development phase is carried out with attention to workers’ conditions and by ensuring that the software produced is designed to protect the health of those who will use it. Goal 5 is also mentioned: “Gender equality”, highlighting how gender equality in development teams must be ensured in order to guarantee quality products, and great care must be taken to avoid gender bias in artificial intelligence models or discriminatory interfaces, images and texts. Of course, there is also talk of environmental impact with Goal 7Clean and accessible energy“, which recommends designing efficient, low energy impact, optimised, shared and reusable systems and solutions. In short, Enrico Mercadante of Cisco Italia points out, “reinterpreting software development in the light of the SDGs of Agenda 2030 is an excellent way to rethink the software life cycle so that it is not only sustainable, but becomes a driver of sustainability”.

The result is a set of rules and recommendations that apply both to those who develop software (in relation, for example, to the working conditions of development teams) and to those who use it (in relation, for example, to the concrete impacts of the choices made from algorithms): in both cases, therefore, software must be developed with great attention to the principles of sustainability, so that it is ‘sustainable by default’ and induces – through its operation – processes that are also sustainable.

Sustainability must be seen and implemented at a systemic level, taking into account environmental, social and economic factors,” adds Luciano Guglielmi, Coordinator of the Steering Committee of the Foundation for Digital Sustainability. “A correct design, an adequate development and an intelligent maintenance of the software implies controlled impacts on the use of energy necessary to make it work – and therefore an attention to the carbon footprint induced in the environment, on the efficient and effective usability by the final user – and therefore an attention to the correct usability by all users for the social and work impacts induced, on the realisation of production and maintenance chains ethically responsible, both at geographical and gender level – and therefore an attention to diversity in general. For this reason, the Steering Committee of the Foundation strongly wanted to analyse the relevant aspect of the sustainability of the software supply chain”.

The manifesto for sustainable coding is the first step in the development of the Digital Sustainability Framework, a framework on which the Foundation for Digital Sustainability is working as part of an activity involving ENEL as main partner and actors such as Cisco Italia, DNV and BluDigit – Italgas and which aims to define metrics and standards for assessing the impact of digital transformation on sustainability.

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