Digitisation can be part of the solution to climate change but storing digital data that is never used can also consume an enormous amount of energy and as a result produce CO2that need never have been wasted. Veritas estimates that 5.8 million tonnes of CO2 will be unnecessarily pumped into the atmosphere as a result of powering the storage of this kind of data this year alone. In order to protect the planet from this waste, businesses need to get on top of their data management strategies, use the right tools to identify which data is valuable and rid their data centres of ‘dark data’.
On average 52% of all data stored by organisations worldwide is ‘dark’ as those responsible for managing it don’t have any idea about its content or value. In the UAE, dark data stands at around 47%, according to the 2019 Veritas Middle East Databerg Report. Much has been said about the financial cost of dark data but the environmental cost has, so far, often been overlooked. Analysts predict that the amount of data that the world will be storing will grow from 33ZB in 2018 to 175ZB by 2025. This implies that, unless people change their habits, there will be 91ZB of dark data in five years’ time – over four times the volume we have today, with all the energy associated with powering the infrastructure in which it lives.
Johnny Karam, Regional Vice President, Emerging Region at Veritas Technologies, explains: “The UAE has been a pioneer in the implementation of programmes and initiatives that contribute to reducing its carbon footprint in pursuit of a greener future. The nation is also leading the charge when it comes to Digital Transformation across the region, with the efficient utilisation of data being a key catalyst. However, as data volumes increase every year, solving the problem of dark data needs to be considered a top priority. The dark data we store as businesses and individuals is producing high amounts of carbon dioxide, especially in large economies that have excelled in their Digital Transformation. It’s clear that this is an issue that everyone needs to start taking really seriously.
“This is both a global and a local issue. Last year, we released the third edition of our ‘Middle East Databerg Report’ which revealed that UAE businesses surveyed were failing to manage their dark and ROT data, with only 12% of the data stored by organisations reported to be clean – the rest being ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial information) and unclassified data. The good news is that the IT industry has a unique chance to get ahead of this challenge. By taking steps to understand our data better, implementing policies to filter dark data and deleting the information that’s simply not needed, we can help reduce spiraling emissions.
“While this needs to become a moral imperative for businesses everywhere, we as individuals also have a key role to play here. By simply managing the thousands of videos and photos that we’ll never look at, or emails that we’ll never read, we will each be playing our part to reduce our impact on the environment. Businesses and consumers everywhere need to learn how to manage their data for the sake of the planet.”