What expectations do users have regarding the sustainability of software (i.e. versioning of applications and websites)? What are the players in the industry (publishers) doing to react to this?
Digital sustainability: what are we talking about and especially where are we?
Sustainability is the source of the capacity of a company trying to ensure its sustainability. On the brand side, it is also the obligation to produce in a more sustainable, resilient and ecological manner.
It is possible to make it more economical, more environmentally friendly and more user-oriented.
The 6 pillars of software obsolescence, the great digital scourge
Stop Programmed Obsolescence (HOP) defines software obsolescence in 6 main points.
1. Perceived obsolescence of the software
First, note that the versions of the same software follow each other every 2 to 5 years depending on the publisher (e.g. Microsoft). Several versions follow, between weak versions (minor changes) and strong versions (major changes and new finalized versions).
2. The limited duration of technical support that makes the software obsolete
Technical support is usually included in the purchase price for 3 to 5 years, including support and software updates. The problem is that after this time, users have to switch software to avoid security vulnerabilities.
3. Incompatibility of the file format
Sometimes the publisher makes the old and new versions of the software incompatible, making it necessary to switch to the latter in order to continue working on the new file formats.
4. The unsupported operating system
To save money, publishers don’t have to support too many versions of the same software at the same time. By offering software only for the latest operating system, they gain the disadvantage of the user who has to change the operating system.
5. Hardware driver not found
Hardware drivers are designed only for the latest versions of operating systems. The user then has to switch hardware to use the current software, which is the opposite of durability.
6. Linked sales
The final pillar of software obsolescence, tied sales, means that the user who is uncomfortable with computers is forced to accept the latest version of an operating system.
End the software obsolescence with SLI
At the beginning of the 2010s, Green IT created the SLI (Software Longevity Index), an indicator to measure the sustainability of software and to express it clearly. Since then, this indicator has improved but remains a solid base. Businesses and consumers are moving towards changing hardware such as their computers for several main reasons.
First, because their performance is no longer sufficient to support the latest versions of their software.
Second, because market participants leave old devices out of the latest updates, creating security risks for the user.
Eventually they part with it when the material is no longer guaranteed.
So it’s mainly about the software.
The SLI was therefore born as a standard indicator for the durability of software and thus conditions the durability of the hardware. The interest is simple: reduce the carbon footprint of digital technology by limiting the frequency of hardware renewals.
According to Green IT, however, this is calculated as follows: SLI = [[Pn / Ln] /. [Pn-1 / Ln-1]]/ D.
P: Required power: [ Fréquence (MHz) * Mémoire vive (Mo) * Espace disque (Mo) ] / 1024
L: Duration of standard support
D: Number of years between the release dates of versions n and n-1
In order to interpret this result, it must be taken into account that the potential service life of the software is greater, the smaller the SLI.
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What do consumers expect from sustainability?
Expectations in line with the development of society
Consumers expect their software to be the same as what they expect from anything they buy now: more environmentally friendly, better sustainable, and more ethical. Therefore, they want to be better informed about the real life of their devices, make more informed decisions and be able to consume with a smaller carbon footprint.
Convergence between free software and sustainability
The compatibility between the durability of the software on the one hand and the free software on the other hand is very interesting. This diagram shows the convergence with relevance:
Consume less, pollute less … the green IT movement is at the forefront
Green IT is a movement that advocates sustainable IT, but is also pragmatic, efficient and recognized by institutions. It directs its measures towards reducing the environmental impact of IT and is mainly aimed at companies and countries.
It relies on 3 main axes to convince:
• Lower costs by limiting energy consumption
• Reduction of environmental risks
• Improving the image of sustainability (among other things) in the eyes of the public.
Which solutions for finally sustainable digital?
Solutions exist both individually and collectively. On a personal level, it’s about questioning your software, hardware or user experience needs, repairing and maintaining the equipment as much as possible, or getting more information about its lifespan.
HOP has published 50 suggestions for more sustainable software (and digitally as a whole). For example, only carry out security updates, create a software guarantee or improve the repairability of devices.
The law is also moving in this direction and is following the demands of civil society by creating a reparability index (which will become the sustainability index in 2024).
There remains a gap between user expectations and publishers’ reactions. But, as in any sector, changes are moving towards sustainability and respect for the environment, the user and every stakeholder. (Really) sustainable software can be for tomorrow.
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