Last September, cabinet office minister Gillian Merron said government IT should be greener. She announced an initiative to make this happen. How is this being carried out?

The government's CIO, John Suffolk of the cabinet office, announced at the time of the Merron speech that the government CIO organisation, the UK CIO Council, would work with the Information Age Partnership (IAP), aka a group of the great and good in the UK IT industry, to devise a way for government IT to become greener.

Its chair, Cisco Systems UK MD Duncan Mitchell, agreed with this, saying: “The Information Age Partnership welcomes this challenge and looks forward to working alongside the government to achieve its aims. The IT industry is focused on making existing systems more sustainable and is ideally placed to advise how service transformation can be used to reduce the environmental impact of activities in the public and private sector alike."

Greening government IT is a highly complex matter. There are dozens of government departments with dozens of individual IT infrastructures developed individually in many different ways. There is no one single government IT purchase and implementation body. The government's chief information officer (CIO) cannot simply issue a Go Green directive and be confident that it will happen. Government IT doesn't work like that.

Nevertheless, government IT represents a significant chunk of the UK's IT-related carbon emissions and it needs to take a lead or, at least, keep up. In consequence, like most cross-department activities the effort is being headed by the Cabinet Office.

Inside this the initiative involved a partnership at the top level between a government IT head group and an outside body.

Regarding the progress so far, a cabinet office spokesman said: "Following Gillian Merron's announcement in Portugal, the CIO Council is looking at how the government can reduce the carbon footprint of its IT systems and is expected to report in the next few months. As well as working with colleagues from across government the council has been consulting with a range of external bodies, discussing their thinking and research."

The spokesperson declined to comment in any more detail, about, for example, potential EPEAT standard adoption in government purchasing, or any other aspect of the work. Nor does the response actually mention the IAP.

Process and People involved

Suffolk as the chief information officer of the government heads the CIO Council whose members include CIOs of various government departments and bodies. Suffolk reports to Alexis Cleveland, head of transformational government. She in turn reports to the UK's most senior civil servant and cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell.

Below Suffolk is William Perrin of the Delivery and Transformation Group, and reporting to him is Emily Holmes, environmental co-ordinator and assistant director for Policy and strategy.

It was anticipated that the process would be that the IAP would set up a working group to investigate. It will scope out the issue and invite comment from various informed parties. A report will be produced and delivered to Suffolk.

It would then be considered by the UK CIO Council after which, it was expected, John Suffolk would deliver his view on it up the hierarchy to Alexis Cleveland and, presumably Gus O'Donnell.

If it were to be approved a greener government IT project will be launched with the UK CIO Council members having to take the report's conclusions and apply it to their own departmental IT operations.