‘Tech net zero’ – so what does it mean?

The team examining technology’s role in reaching Wales’s climate goals needed a way of explaining their title

20 June 2022

‘Tech net zero’ simply says technology has a role in addressing climate change – it doesn’t say what © Unsplash

Naming a digital project should be relatively straightforward – call it what it is.  No fancy acronyms or clever puns, just what you’re delivering. That principle easily applies when it’s a service everyone understands – ‘Register to vote’ or ‘Find a job’ – but what if your service or project isn’t so simple? 

‘Tech net zero’ probably suggests different things to different people, or even nothing to some! It’s a relatively new concept so, as we’ve kicked off this discovery, we’ve had conversations about whether the name needed to be more descriptive.  

The three-word phrase comes from the Welsh Government’s plan for the country’s public sector to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2030. ‘Technology’ is one of 6 themes in that plan, which also includes ‘society’, ‘the individual’ and ‘use of resources’.  

Tech’s 2 roles 

So ‘tech net zero’ as a phrase simply acknowledges that technology has a role in reaching net zero. The Welsh Government plan breaks that role down further. It talks about how technology can itself help bring about positive environmental change. It also says Wales needs to use sustainable, low-carbon technologies (and, by implication, stop using polluting ones) to reach zero carbon emissions. 

So, how to explain all that in the name of a project?  

The ‘net zero’ part of the title is itself, by now, relatively well used. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: 

‘a target of completely negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, to be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere’ 

But how to understand the role of technology in meeting Wales’s climate goals – which is the Tech Net Zero discovery team’s brief? 

‘Green technology’: the discovery team saw no need to investigate obvious links such as migrating to the cloud © Unsplash

Defining the problem 

That question relates to the main problem the discovery team had with such a broad name and concept – defining the problem we were trying to solve and, by doing so, scoping the work. We did not need to investigate what many people already knew, for example – such as the benefits of migrating to the cloud, holding meetings virtually rather than travelling and avoiding printing. 

As the project was in the discovery stage, we thought it was OK to have a relatively general title. Yet we wanted people in the Welsh public sector to understand broadly what the project was about and to get interested in our research. With the name alone, people were less likely to engage with our social media posts or emails inviting people to get involved. 

Digital tech meets environment

So the team came up with a tag line to use for now to include in comms that explained the project’s remit: ‘Understanding the link between digital technology and the environment’. 

We’re looking forward to getting to grips with that link – and talking to you, our audience about it – as the project unfurls. 

To keep in touch with the Tech Net Zero discovery, sign up to the CDPS newsletter (email comms@digitalpublicservices.gov.wales) and follow @cdps_cymru, @PeragoWales and @M_SParc on Twitter 

Read more

Tech net zero – start by understanding the problem

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