The Communications Web site, http://cacm.acm.org,
features 13 bloggers in the BLoG@cAcm community.
In each issue of Communications, we’ll publish excerpts
from selected posts, plus readers’ comments.
An IcT Research
Agenda, hPc and
Innovation, and Why
only the Developed
World Lacks Women
Jeannette M. Wing writes about the need for a comprehensive
research agenda, Daniel Reed discusses high-performance computing,
and Mark Guzdial shares insights about women in computing.
from Jeannette m. Wing’s “Windmills in the Water” Windmills in the water were my first sight dur- ing my approach to Kas- trup, Copenhagen’s airport, flying in from Zürich. Blades gracefully spin- ning in the air—a surprisingly serene sight. Wind power supplies 20% of Denmark’s power grid, with the goal
of 50% by 2025. Denmark, a country of
five million, is itself an experiment in
Apropos, I was on my way to Hels-ingør, known as the home of Hamlet’s
castle, to attend an Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conference on Infor-
mation and Communication Technologies (ICTs), the environment, and
climate change. OECD’s mission is to
help governments tackle questions
that affect the global economy, society,
and policy. The conference was heavily populated by high-level government
officials and industry executives; I was
one of a handful of academics present.
At the opening plenary roundtable,
I posed this question to the audience:
What are the scientific and technical
challenges that the ICT research community should be working on today, in
anticipation of tomorrow’s energy and
environment problems? The reason I
wanted government and industry officials to hear the word “research” is because I sense that nonscientists might
think it’s a mere matter of money and
a mere matter of the deployment of
existing ICT technology to solve these
problems. I don’t think so.
ICTs account for 2% of global carbon emissions, according to estimates
by Gartner. So, reducing our footprint
with more energy-efficient devices,
computers, and data centers will have a
direct effect on ICTs’ carbon footprint.
Moreover, we need to look at the entire
product lifecycle. And what about ICTs’
role in the other 98%? ICTs will enable
smart cars, smart buildings, smart infrastructure, smart grids, and smart
logistics; they will enable telecommut-ing, telepresence, and telemedicine.
So, ICTs also have an indirect effect by
helping other sectors save energy. Finally, what about systemic effects? First,
algorithms, software, computational
methods, computers, and networks
are foundational to sensing, modeling, and simulation; used by engineers
for building smart things; and used by
scientists to observe and model the environment and climate; so, our science
and technology will help others attain
their sustainability goals. Second, ICTs
are just part of a much larger system of
systems: it’s the interactions and the
nonlinear coupling effects of energy,
the environment, and the economy
that need to be modeled and understood (again, with help from ICTs).
With my question, I raised the attention of government and industry leaders at the conference to the importance
of research and the role of academia
in the academia-government-industry
ecosystem. On the other hand, I have