HK, S'pore step up 'green' in govt contracts

The Hong Kong government "would in general" not buy non-eco-friendly IT products, while Singapore has "practical" green provisions in projects such as SOEasy.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Asian administrations such as Hong Kong and Singapore, are beginning to incorporate "green" clauses in IT contracts, and may reject outsourcers that cannot meet such requirements.

Hong Kong's Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview, the special administrative region has government procurement regulations that require government bureaus and departments to "take into account environmental considerations when procuring IT products and services".

For example, IT products sourced by the Government Logistics Department and the OGCIO are required to have energy-saving or power management features. Contractors are mandated to minimize the use of materials and resources such as electricity and paper and to pay attention to environment issues. "A standard provision that requests the contractor to observe the guidance note for environment management is included in all centrally organized IT contracts," said a spokesperson.

"As the [Hong Kong] government and society [become increasingly concerned about] environmental protection and friendliness, the ability of the outsourcer to meet green requirements will be one of the key considerations in awarding government contracts," added the spokesperson. "Going forward, we will keep reviewing the specifications for the purchase of computer equipment with a view to incorporating green specifications in response to the latest market development. It is the practice of the government to award contracts to outsourcers who meet our requirements--outsourcers that cannot meet our requirements including green requirements will not be considered."

Over in Singapore, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) confirmed in an e-mail that "green provisions, where practical" have been included in the country's biggest government IT contract--the S$1.3 billion (US$847,730) SOEasy that seeks to standardize desktop, network and messaging components for the majority of public sector agencies, as well as in government data centers. Besides its role as an ICT industry regulator and developer, the IDA also acts as the government's procurement arm.

IDA, however, could not elaborate on the green requirements beyond citing energy-saving initiatives as an example.

The spokesperson noted that a green IT study is currently underway and more details will be shared upon completion.

William Devitt, Atos Origin's head of technical consulting in Asia, said in an e-mail interview that the company has so far not come across any green requirements in the government contracts it has been involved in, in the region.

Suppliers such as Atos Origin, however, face increasing pressure to demonstrate how they are able to "reuse and recycle more to reduce the impact on the environment", he noted.

"Working with governments and private organizations alike, we are seeing an increased need to address and deliver against a green IT strategy, and [the need to partner] manufacturers that prohibit the use of hazardous materials is becoming the norm," added Devitt.

Need to act
According to a recent IDC green poll, environmentally friendly IT within the public sector is strong, but adoption by the sector is uneven across the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan region.

Fiona Kanagasingam, senior market analyst for Government Insights at IDC Asia-Pacific, said in a statement last week that Asian administrations need to exercise their powers as regulators, large employers, and core business owners of diverse policy to draft relevant guidelines and facilitate transformations in the value chain.

"As global demand for a lighter carbon footprint grows, the public sector risks being impelled to react to public pressure and regulatory mandates if it does not maximize the unique position it has to shape these policies now," she pointed out. "Public sector CIOs play a critical role in addressing challenges and maximizing opportunities related to IT-enabled sustainable development.

"They should seize the opportunity to shape the strategic and emerging policy agenda on sustainable development, by assessing and articulating how IT compounds, but also offers transformational solutions to reduce the carbon footprint," added Kanagasingam.

Springboard Research, in a report earlier this month, also advised the IT industry to work with governments in the region to develop "realistic" regulation on green IT. The market analyst forecasts the green IT services industry to grow from US$462 million in 2008 to over US$2 billion by 2011, led by demand in the three biggest markets of Australia, India and China.

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