Ambiguous relationship between digitization and sustainability

09/01/2022 – It’s a complicated relationship: A recent survey shows how Germans feel about issues related to sustainable development and digital technologies. Young people in particular are critical of their use. What is lacking in many places is education and information.

by Christina Rose

Even today, many people in Germany are skeptical about digitization. This also applies to the contribution it can make to sustainable development. For this purpose, the Ipsos Institute has commissioned Gesellschaft für Informatik
conducted a representative survey with 2,000 participants. The results flowed into the new sustainability monitor
and highlight four central challenges of our time. In addition to environmental and climate protection, the subjects of education, equal treatment and physical and mental health are also dealt with. In interviews, experts and decision-makers classify the results, including the Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, the chairman of the conference of the Minister of Health Petra Grimm-Benne and the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Jens Brandenburg.

Digitization and climate protection: part of the solution or part of the problem?

New opportunities, high energy consumption: Among other things, the survey investigated whether people see digitization more as an opportunity or as an additional problem factor in the fight against the climate crisis. 40 percent of respondents said that digital technologies are more beneficial than harmful to our environment, 19 percent see it the other way around. At 30 percent, the number of those who believe that digitization neither harms nor benefits the environment is also high. For some, the environmental factor also plays a role in their own use: 36 percent say they would pay more for an app or digital service if they knew it was particularly climate-friendly, and the 16 to 24-year-olds said yes, even just less than half (48 percent).

There is a lack of information and education

The survey also shows that there is often still a lack of information and education: 43 percent of respondents do not feel well informed about the possible benefits of digital technologies for environmental and climate protection, 74 percent would like more information about this. Here, general IT education plays a central role – and many of the respondents had too little of that. 72 percent would have liked more information technology training in school. The differences between the age groups are interesting here: especially people between the ages of 25 and 44 wish they had learned more about computer science at school. Both the younger and the older are less likely to agree with this statement.

The relationship between IT and sustainability is ambivalent

The sustainability monitor shows how complex the relationship between IT systems and sustainable development is. Christine Regitz, President of the Society for Computer Science: “Digital technologies can be important tools in the fight for sustainable development. However, the survey also makes it clear that many are skeptical and question the benefits. At the same time, they are looking for new ways to make their contribution to sustainability. use of resources Oh But in order to make informed decisions, they also need the necessary skills and information, because if we want digitization to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, we must not look at IT systems in isolation, we must understand why and how they are used – but also how they should not be used.”

Discrimination is increasing for many

Sustainable development includes equal opportunities and justice. Here too, digital technologies, above all the Internet, are both a blessing and a curse. Although 57 percent of respondents believe that minorities can become more involved through the Internet, 78 percent also experience an increase in discrimination on the Internet. Two out of five people (41 percent) under the age of 25 stated that they themselves had been discriminated against online. But the Internet can also be a place where many people feel very comfortable. More than one in four (27 percent) often feel better understood online than in everyday life. Among the 16 to 24-year-olds, even 42 percent do so.

Especially young people believe in eHealth applications

A lot has also happened in the healthcare sector during digitalisation. New digital health applications flood the market every day, promising uncomplicated, cost-effective treatment with no waiting times. One in three use digital health applications to improve their own physical health – one in five when it comes to mental health. Young people in particular are more likely to believe in the benefits of digital health applications. In the interview with Petra Grimm-Benne, the question is, among other things, whether digital health applications are the solution to or the symptom of a general supply problem in Germany.

Leave a Comment