The unsustainable directionality of innovation – The example of the broadband transition
Information and communication technology (ICT) can be seen as a general-purpose technology with wide-ranging socio-economic and environmental implications across sectors. ICTs also constitute a system of technologies with stronger internal links since the emergence of the Internet and broadband as a new information infrastructure. The new infrastructure has co-evolved with widespread integration of ICTs in everyday life, and consumer demand has been decisive for ICT innovation. This article explores the environmental directionality of ICT innovation and the broadband transition, focusing mainly on energy impacts. It is argued that much innovation tends to develop in an unsustainable direction and that public regulation falls far short of the challenge. Transition theory is applied to analyze the background for the unsustainable development and the reasons why environmental concerns do not figure more prominently in the broadband transition. Finally, it is discussed how the direction of ICT innovation could be influenced in order to realize more of the positive sustainability potential.
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