Building sustainable data infrastructures for the future

Jun 27, 2024 | Uncategorized

Sustainable Data Infrastructure Webinar Highlights

On 19 June 2024, the Data Governance in Africa Initiative organised an online capacity-building webinar on sustainable data infrastructures in collaboration with GIZ, EstDev, and Smart Africa. This webinar underscored the necessity of robust data governance frameworks, stakeholder engagement, and technical considerations such as data standards, interoperability, and scalable architectures that can adapt to evolving technologies. It also addressed the environmental impact of data infrastructures, promoting energy-efficient technologies and responsible data management practices.


  • Ott Velsberg, Chief Data Officer, Estonia
  • Ndemo Bitango, Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium & EU
  • Osman Issah, Manager for Resilient and Inclusive Digital Infrastructure, Smart Africa

Key Highlights from the Webinar:

Economic and social impact of data

Data is a vital asset with transformative potential across various sectors, contributing to economic growth and improved quality of life. It can promote inclusiveness and sustainability in industries. According to Dr. Ott Velsberg, “Data centers today on a global scale range from 5-9% of electricity consumption. In countries with large-scale operations, electricity consumption can be over 10% yearly.” Effective data lifecycle management goes beyond just deleting old files. It involves implementing intelligent archiving processes with tiered storage technologies like tape libraries and object storage for ageing out cooler data. Automation ensures stale data gets permanently erased without tying up pricey disk storage.

Promoting green ICT

Data centers are major energy consumers, often overlooked as environmental polluters. Large data centers can use between 1-5 million gallons of water daily, comparable to the consumption of towns with 10,000-50,000 people. The tech industry needs to adopt “green ICT” practices, including energy-efficient hardware and renewable energy sources, to reduce the environmental footprint.

The webinar examined the rising demand for data storage and processing that is raising environmental concerns. Data centers consume significant amounts of electricity, with global consumption ranging from 5-9% and potentially exceeding 10% in some countries. This realization should prompt the tech industry to embrace “green ICT” practices and technologies designed to minimize the environmental footprint of our insatiable digital appetite. Osman Issah emphasized this as a key priority, stating, “We must incorporate green ICT practices, implementing energy efficiency technologies and practices for reducing the environmental impact of data centers.”

The need for collaboration

The panelists emphasised the need for robust data governance frameworks, stakeholder engagement, and technical solutions like data standards, interoperability, and scalable architectures. Effective data management involves policies for archiving, deletion, and tiered storage to reduce energy consumption. Engaging all stakeholders, including marginalised communities, is key to building sustainable data infrastructures. According to Bitange Ndemo, “We must have Common Data Standards, Protocols and Interoperability Frameworks, especially in Africa, to enable data integration and harmonisation across different sources and domains.”

The role of data in enhancing the quality of life

Government policies and incentives, academic analytical modeling, and community involvement are essential for true sustainability. In today’s technologically driven world, data is establishing itself as a crucial asset with revolutionary power in many areas of the economy. Data enhances the quality of life by promoting economic growth and having a cross-sectoral influence. It has the potential to revolutionise industries in ways that promote inclusiveness and sustainability.

Multifaceted importance of sustainable data infrastructures

The sustainable data infrastructure webinar, underscored the multifaceted importance of sustainable data infrastructures. Robust data governance frameworks, stakeholder engagement, and advanced technical considerations are essential in the face of rapidly evolving technologies. The webinar highlighted the economic and social impact of data, emphasising its transformative potential across sectors and its role in promoting inclusiveness and sustainability.

Data is a revolutionary asset with the potential to significantly enhance quality of life. Through effective governance, innovative technical solutions, and concerted efforts towards sustainability, data can drive economic growth and contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable future.

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