Bioprocess Engineering

Sustainable Digitalization

As early as 1865, the British economist William S. Jevsons pointed out that the energy savings expected with the use of optimized steam engines did not materialize. On the contrary, the availability of cheap energy led to increased demand. And the discrepancy between expected savings and real additional consumption has since been referred to as the Jevons paradox.

The situation is similar with the use of information and communications technology (ICT). Since their introduction, there has been constant talk of them opening up vast opportunities for energy savings - but this has never materialized. Instead, the ICT sector's appetite for energy has taken on ever greater dimensions. For 2028, the electricity consumption caused by the Internet and other ICT components has been estimated at 1,300-2,300 TWh. Since the emission factor per electrical kWh generated is 0.63 kgCO2/kWh, the ICT sector was thus responsible for 1.5 GtCO2e (gigatons of CO2 equivalents) of greenhouse gas emissions generated. If this continues, the ICT sector will become a major obstacle to meeting the 1.5°C target agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Any introduction of new technologies must therefore face the question of how it will contribute to a reduction in energy consumption. And if there is no convincing answer to this question, commercialization should be dispensed with. Or how else should we understand UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' urgent appeal in March 2023 to "... massively accelerate climate efforts in every country, every sector, and every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once. " [1]

But it is not just the ICT sector's energy consumption that is in conflict with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In many cases, Internet sites are used to spy on users on a massive scale and to determine detailed personality profiles for the advertising industry. And large communication platforms (which can hardly be called social media) fuel exaggerated emotional disputes, even hate speech, do not prevent cyberbullying or hostilities against civil rights and women's rights activists or allow themselves to be misused for organizing anti-democratic attacks on government institutionsiii - and all this just to keep users on their channels for a long time and serve them as much advertising as possible. Sustainability in the ICT sector and on the Internet is thus not in good shape.

In order to address and remedy the aforementioned problems, the JLB initiated the lecture series "Internet and Privacy" at the TU Berlin in 2019 and 2021 and organized them together with colleagues from computer science. In 2022, we also participated in the Bits and Trees Congress with the workshop "How much energy does my cell phone use to monitor me?".

[1]  Charlotte Freitag, Mike Berners-Lee, Kelly Widdicks, Bran Knowles, Gordon S. Blair, Adrian Friday. "The real climate and transformative impact of ICT: A critique of estimates, trends, and regulations" in Patterns (2) 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.patter.2021.100340


[3] a)  b)

[4] amnesty international: „Toxic Twitter – A toxic place for women“,; #She Persisted: „Monetizing Misoceny – Gendered Disinformation and the Undermining of Women’s Rights and Democracy Globally“, L. Di Meco, 2023,

[5] „Pro-Bolsonaro violence: experts highlight role of social media platforms“, C. Malleret, D. Milmo & A. Hern in The Guardian, 9.1.2023,