20 September 2022
While digital technology holds the key to solving global environmental challenges and security risks, the concentration of data economy power outside Europe can also increase threats. A sustainable future requires a sovereign, responsible, and secure digital economy, with Nordic countries leading the way.
The current state of global affairs has made the sustainable, fair, and secure development of digital technology more critical than ever before. The locus of power in today’s data economy lies in countries outside the European Union, which poses a challenge to European sovereignty and resilience.
“The development of the European data economy is driven by human values, but the processing of data in jurisdictions beyond the reach of EU regulation presents a threat to privacy protection, information security, and the achievement of climate targets. Today, as much as 92 percent of all data is processed outside the EU,” says Alberto Valero, Vice President and Head of Technology and Growth at Tietoevry Connect, shedding light on the background of the European Union’s digital strategy, which aims to strengthen European IT expertise sustainably in order to ensure digital sovereignty.
The influence of digital technology on individuals, companies, the environment, and wider society is a multidimensional phenomenon. Technology plays a key role in solving climate issues, energy crises, economic crises, and even global security threats. At the same time, however, the IT industry itself is wrestling with the same challenges it aims to solve.
“IT industry infrastructure is developing rapidly, and its environmental impacts are tremendous. The EU estimates that digital technology accounts for 8–10 percent of total energy consumption globally. Nevertheless, with the help of modern technology and eco-friendly data economy we have been able to reduce our customers’ carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 75,000 kg in 2021 alone.
Tietoevry is leading the way towards a sustainable data economy by setting high standards for itself and actively participating in industry discussions and development efforts in collaboration with other industry operators and the European Union.
Cloud services delivered in line with green values are the most effective way of increasing energy efficiency and reducing the adverse environmental impacts of the data economy.
“Cloud services are 90 percent more energy-efficient than conventional server rooms, and 5G technology is more efficient than 4G technology by the same ratio. In fact, waste heat recovered from data centers is already being used to heat 700 households all year round in Espoo, for example. At present, half of the energy we consume is recovered and reused to heat households,” Valero points out, illustrating the significance of cloud services and modern technology in overcoming the energy crisis.
One of the targets of the EU’s digital strategy is for the data economy to fully transition to renewable energy by 2030. In the case of Tietoevry, carbon neutral energy consumption will be achieved next year.
“We increased our rate of renewable energy consumption to 92 percent in 2021, and our energy savings corresponded to the annual energy consumption of over 1,000 Finnish households. Given the current situation globally, we take pride in our position as an industry leader in achieving ambitious sustainability targets and highlighting their concrete impacts,” Valero says, outlining the company’s accomplishments that impact on society as a whole.
The Nordic countries are pioneers in the development of modern cloud technologies, which helps further strengthen Europe’s position in the data economy of the future.
“Cold conditions are ideal for energy-efficient data centers. In addition to having advantages in terms of climate issues, data centers located on sovereign Nordic soil also offer benefits in terms of security. For these reasons, Tietoevry is committed to locating all of its data centers in countries with a cold climate.”
In addition to environmental issues, the influence of digital technology extends to people’s private lives, companies’ operating conditions, and the security and vitality of society, which creates more pressure with regard to regulation. The right of individuals to the protection of privacy and equal services – even in exceptional circumstances – along with national and international security and the conditions for fair competition between companies all depend on a common European data economy in which sustainable innovation goes hand-in-hand with democratic values. The power of technology needs to be reined in by responsible leadership.
“The IT industry’s impacts on society and the environment are broad and complex. With that in mind, it is important to consider the direction in which the industry is developing, who is determining that direction, how new solutions are being innovated, where data centers are located, and the countries in which cloud services are managed. We are living in an age when the basic needs and human rights we used to take for granted are in jeopardy, which makes it even more crucial to strengthen the European data economy and keep our fate in our own hands,” Valero says.
Tietoevry works together with industry operators and the European Union to develop a secure and sustainable infrastructure, the regulation of which ensures a fair digital environment for Europeans, along with more effective use of the data that is available.
“The European Commission estimates that as much as 80 percent of available industrial data remains entirely unused. Resilience, recovery, competitiveness, security, and well-being can all be promoted by improving the availability of data in a reliable environment. Data is an inexhaustible resource. Using it does not deplete it. With that in mind, data that has value should be more effectively refined and harnessed to support the development of society and business alike. Successful leadership through digital technology holds tremendous potential for increasing prosperity, solidarity, and sustainability,” Valero explains.
While industry regulation increases security, it also presents challenges to innovation. Rapid changes in industrial development and the applicable legislation require continuous monitoring of the operating environment and deep insight into current trends and developments. Innovation must be aligned with environmental targets, existing regulation, and future regulation. At the same time, maintaining competitiveness and improving profitability requires the continuous optimization of efficiency and enhanced risk management. Teaming up with a reliable partner lightens the load and improves efficiency.
Text Mari Korhonen Photos Joona Raevuori