[The material impact of the immaterial 1/2] Free software in response to obsolescence
François Aubriot, manager at DotRiver and President of PLOSS Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne
DotRiver is a free digital company created in 2008. It provides digital work environments composed of free and open source software for small businesses, associations, schools and administrations. It is a member of PLOSS-RA, the free digital company association in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and is certified “Lyon: a sustainable, fair city”.
Extending service life: a central issue
The digital sector is a big consumer of resources. The manufacturing phase requires rare-earth metals, its global nature leads to large transport flows and also raises the question of the working conditions of workers. At end-of-life, more than half of the equipment is not recycled in Europe. The waste, which is particularly toxic, has serious health consequences and pollutes the environment, particularly in some Asian and African countries where it accumulates in unauthorized rubbish dumps. This is why extending the life of equipment is one of the central issues in reducing the environmental and social impact of digital technology.
What relationship is there between free software and hardware service life?
Free software is less “heavy-duty” than proprietary software, and can offer machines a second lease of life. This is a tangible alternative, firstly because free software can cover all individual and professional use; and secondly because it reduces the need for investment in hardware and licenses and is therefore a source of savings. Typically, Linux is an optimized operating system that can be used by anyone as an alternative to the Microsoft or Apple operating system.
Free and open source software also provides an answer to the no less important issues of sovereignty and security. The four principles of free software (Freedom to use the software, to copy it, to study it - access to the source code, to modify it and redistribute the modified versions) allow continuous improvement of the programmes, greater security, and less dependence on obsolescence and the forced purchase of new versions.
Responsible and fair digital services
DotRiver offers a desktop virtualization service, meaning that users can access their online office via a server. This access is not linked to the user’s hard disk, operating system or software. He/she needs only a secure internet connection and can work from any terminal. Thanks to this way of working, the user does not have to invest in new, more powerful devices: he/she can use those he/she already owns as well as small terminals or refurbished devices. This solution helps extend the life of the hardware and encourages people to buy used equipment.
The economic model: a key to changing practices
As a free digital company, DotRiver provides only service offerings. Its role is to supervise, administer, and secure the digital environment, and ensure that it runs properly.
Since this business model is not based on the sale of licenses and equipment, customers have no incentive to change their devices if they are still in working order. Awareness-raising work, especially among policy makers and those in charge of IT services in organizations, is needed for responsible digital practices to become widespread. Citizens wishing to turn to open source software can contact local Linux user groups, associations that make presentations and organize “Install parties”.
DotRiver also works at the other end of the digital value chain through its business of optimizing the power consumption of physical machines in data centres. Artificial intelligence analyses the use of machines to reduce power consumption for an optimized equivalent service.
For more information: PLOSS Rhône-Alpes Auvergne (Professionnels du Libre et Open-Source Software en Rhône-Alpes - Free and Open-Source Software Professionals in Rhône-Alpes)
> ON THE SAME SUBJECT, YOU CAN ALSO READ:[The material impact of the immaterial 2/2] Solutions to reduce the impact of servers.
Source: ECLAIRA - Newsletter No. 13 / March 2019
Newsletter edited by CIRIDD with support from Région Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes
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