D21 Digital Index: The challenges of the green transformation

The D21 Digital Index confirms the increasing interlocking of sustainability and digitization


Author: House of Eden

The D21 Digital Index, a study of the digital society, was released on February 20th. The study conducted by Kantar deals with the connection between digital and green transformation every year. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, a survey of 25.000 federal citizens aged 14 and over took place between August 2021 and July 2022.

Key results of the D21 Digital Index:

  • Digital society: The majority of the population belongs to the digital middle with solid digital skills.
  • Resilience in digital change: Almost two thirds have important resilience factors.
  • Digital added value: Only a few believe that their profession could become obsolete as a result of digitization.
  • Cohesion and Democracy: Citizens see disinformation as the greatest danger of digitization for democracy.
  • Twin transformation: Interplay of green and digital change not yet sufficiently penetrated.

Federal Minister for Economics and Climate Protection and Robert Habeck says in his welcoming address:

"It is gratifying that the interlocking of sustainability and digitization is becoming increasingly important. 71% of people in Germany state that they only purchase new digital devices when it is really necessary. This is an increase of 19% compared to the previous year. It is important to keep the ecological footprint of digital technologies as small as possible. We must therefore decouple the further process of digitization even more from energy consumption, for example through sustainable software."

Value-Action Gap: Ignorance about the impact of digitization on the environment

The respondents have different assessments of the interactions between digital transformation and ecological sustainability. Around 34% see a rather positive influence, while 35% see a rather negative influence. The authors of the study emphasize that digitization has both positive and negative effects on the environment.

A so-called "value-action gap" is reflected in the difficulty for 27% of those surveyed to change their digital behavior for the benefit of the environment. For the youngest generation of 14 to 26-year-olds, this proportion is 43%. Around 49% of those surveyed state that they often lack information about the influence of digital applications on the environment. In particular, with regard to CO2 emissions and the energy and resource consumption of products.

The study emphasizes that digitization alone cannot stop climate change, but sees opportunities in the rapid development of new technologies. Digital technologies could help to reduce the CO2 footprint by making processes more efficient and resource-saving. In addition, increase the maintenance and reusability of products.

Fossil-Free through digitization?

The study also shows that 35% of respondents believe that new digital technologies offer great opportunities to become independent of fossil fuels.

The social sustainability of society is also a topic of the study. 64% of those surveyed have important resilience factors for digital change. With regard to democracy and social cohesion, 56% of those surveyed see digitization as rather positive, while 25% expect a rather negative impact. 64% name disinformation as one of the biggest risks to democracy.

In conclusion, the D21 Digital Index makes it clear that digital transformation brings with it both potential and difficulties in relation to the environment and society. In order to leverage the benefits of digitalization, such as carbon reduction and social sustainability, it is imperative that everyone stays informed and active.

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