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Name: Taofiq Huq
Age: 14
Favourite animal: Eagles
Favourite subject at school: Science & English
Interests/hobbies: Reading, writing, drawing, swimming, volunteer bushcare
If you were a world leader, what changes would you make?
I would invite peoples of this world to put aside their differences and unite into one harmonious nation, where they will look after each other and their environment to achieve a sustainable living for all life.

Broadband for Sustainability

There is a good chance that the reader of this article has a broadband internet connection. Broadband has only recently become cheap and more or less available for the average internet user, and is becoming cheaper and cheaper as time passes due to healthy competition between Internet Service Providers. It is a great improvement over dialup internet, with far greater speeds and accessibility at any time. It is of course due to these improvements that we can undertake activities that we generally would not hold the patience for with dialup internet. These include downloading of music from such sites as iTunes and ordering groceries for delivery, as well as online banking which is far quicker than making oneís way to the nearest bank.

Interestingly a positive correlation was found between the availability of broadband and people who work from home. Over 61% of people who work from home in Canberra according to the 2001 Census have broadband available to them (ABS Census in Nairn 2007). The reasons for this are obvious. Broadband allows small businesses working from home to create websites and sell goods online, and enables more or less instantaneous communication worldwide through email. It enables intranets (purely private networks) which can become extranets (private networks available through login via the internet) as well as video-conferencing.

So how then does broadband impact sustainability? The answer to this question is very simple, once you consider that over a third of travel from point A to point B via carbon emitting vehicles in Canberra consists of commuting to the workplace (WP Bown and Partners in Nairn 2007). If a reasonable percentage of people were offered incentive to work from home, this figure would be cut significantly.

However, one must note that a large amount of travel takes place for other reasons, such as shopping, recreation and education. Shopping in fact makes up a higher percentage of trip purpose overall than commuting to work (WP Bown and Partners in Nairn 2007), and is so high that it makes up for the remaining factors of recreation and education. Broadband also has the potential to cut travelling for the mere purpose of shopping. As I have mentioned before, downloading music, ordering groceries and undertaking online banking not only saves time, it also significantly reduces the amount of travel undertaken utilising ecologically damaging vehicles such as cars and buses.

Nairn (2007) believed that broadband would easily enable a five percent reduction of traffic throughout Australiaís major capital cities by the year 2011, due to greater adoption of the aforementioned activities. The 2006 Census reinforced this, as employment from home had increased in the five years between 2001 and 2006 by a massive 5.2% in Canberra, from 4.3% in 2001 to 9.5% (almost a tenth of the employed population) in 2006. This is likely to increase further as broadband infrastructure is further improved as the country moves forward.

Such a decrease of five percent in traffic in a congested city such as Sydney would not just result in a simple five percent reduction of carbon emissions of the traffic that had been removed from the streets, but a far greater reduction from the fact the rest of the traffic would flow more smoothly. Nairn (2007) stated that it would result in an immense reduction of 17% of emissions in congested Sydney, almost a fifth of total vehicle emissions by simply doing things normally done with a trip outside at home through broadband. It would also save Sydney over $5 billion in transport expenses through road userís time, road accidents, fuel, road maintenance, etc. This would bring the average Sydney household over $3000 by the year 2011.

In addition, it was found that one could equip a solar water heater with a smart controller that uses broadband to access the internet and download information about the expected weather (ANU Study in Dennis & Jones 2007). Currently our solar water heaters use solar power and auxiliary heating systems (such as gas or electricity) together regardless of conditions, often resulting in loss of some thermal energy. Thus there is no control on the extent to which sustainable solar power is used over polluting auxiliary systems, nor is there any real way of knowing if the water we will use is hot enough to be usable.

A smart controller could solve these problems by maximising the usage of solar heating over auxiliary systems except in unfavourable situations such as poor weather. It could also provide a simple user interface showing the situation of the water heater to the end user. Some control could also be given to the end user themselves, so that they can determine the extent to which auxiliary and solar power will be used, and even the actual temperature they prefer the water to be at. And since this smart controller would access the internet through the end userís computer, this user interface could simply become a handy desktop gadget as in Windows Vistaís sidebar.

In addition to the advantages to the user themselves, such a system would remarkably give off less than 20% of the emissions the current day average solar water heater gives off, further adding to the reduction of emissions from the reduction of traffic through an increase of activities via the use of broadband. It thus is clear that broadband, while not the sole step to be taking in the reduction of emissions by the peoples of Earth, is a very important one nonetheless that will push mankind towards a more sustainable future.

By Taofiq Huq


ABS Census (2001), Journey to Work, in: Nairn R (2007), Broadband Telecommunications and urban travel, Telecommunications Journal of Australia 57 (2 and 3): pp. 26.1 to 26.9.

WP Bown and Partners (1997), Household Interview Survey of Canberra/Queanbeyan, in: Nairn R (2007), Broadband Telecommunications and urban travel, Telecommunications Journal of Australia 57 (2 and 3): pp. 26.1 to 26.9.

Dennis M (2004), Active Control of Split System Domestic Solar Water Heaters, in: Dennis M & Jones H (2007), Broadband communication enables sustainable energy services, Telecommunications Journal of Australia 57 (2 and 3): pp. 25.1 to 25.16.

Nairn R (2007), Broadband Telecommunications and urban travel, Telecommunications Journal of Australia 57 (2 and 3): pp. 26.1 to 26.9.