Integrating Digital Economy and Green Economy: Opportunities for Sustainable Development

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The current thinking about the development of global economies and societies focuses on two issues: the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) and the challenge of environmental sustainability.

The importance of sustainability has been recognized in development policy--making since the Earth Summit took place in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The sustainable development was defined by World Commission on Environment and Development as ..development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCED, 1987, part 1, sec. 2, para.1).

It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.

The concept of sustainable development has been elaborated and refined in the next years. The goal of sustainable development policy is human well-being for people everywhere, measured in terms of factors such as security, satisfaction of material needs, health, social relations and freedom of choice and action. To meet this goal, it is necessary to generate and distribute wealth in ways that reduce poverty and provide a decent standard of living to people everywhere. This can only be done in the long run through policies and strategies that balance economic growth and social development with environmental sustainability.

Technology plays critical role in achieving the long-term balance between human development and the natural environment that is essential for sustainable development (Souter, MacLean, Okoh and Creech, 2010). Comparable attention to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in development arose in the late 1990s and the first years of this century.

The profound changes in technologies and economics of communications mark the transitions to a post-industrial economy, in which knowledge and networks play a more preeminent role than capital, named digital economy.

It is widely accepted that new technologies are having major positive and negative impacts on economic and social relationship and, especially, on environment. But, the sustainable development cannot be expanding without global communications and knowledge exchange (MacLean, Andjelkovich and Vetter, 2007). In this context, ICT and Internet are seen as opportunities to cross the development constraints and as threats for the sustainable development.

Although concepts such as "green products", green investments", green energy" were used in recent decades, the concepts of green economy, green growth and green society was triggered on the international agenda by the financial and economic crises of 2008-2009. Green economy is seen as a framework for restoring economic growth meanwhile responding to the climate change and other subjects of environmental sustainability.

2. THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF DIGITAL ECONOMY

The "digital economy" is a relatively new concept in policy-making replacing terms such as "the information economy" (1970s), "knowledge economy" and "e-economy" (1980s), "new economy" (1990s), or "network economy" and "Internet economy" (2000s). Although there is no single definition of digital economy, there is general agreement on certain fundamental principles.

The basic idea of the digital economy is that the manufacturing of products, services, lifelong learning and innovation are made possible by modern technology support transmission and processing in the context of market globalization and sustainable development.

Beside the economic and social impact, the environmental dimension of the digital economy deserves special attention because it is one of the important aspects of sustainable development. …