Green Shoots at Microsoft: Public Sector Engagement: EU, UK

As I have written previously, Microsoft is finally beginning to pull together a coherent green story under new sustainability supremo Rob Bernard. The company is also missing a bunch of tricks, but more on that later. But back to the good. Yesterday came news that Microsoft is signing a non-exclusive five year deal with the European Environmental Agency (EAA) with a goal to “make environmental information more accessible to citizens in Europe”. A laudable goal. As I have written before We Are The Watchdogs. But in order to be watchdogs we need open data, transparently collected and shared. Its somewhat ironic that Microsoft is providing its services and software for free; given the EU sometimes has an issue with freebies. It will be interesting to see whether the EEA’s new web presence still uses Google custom search like the current one. The first step is to build a Web 1.0-style publishing portal, which will be based on the usual Microsoft middleware, and some Microsoft Live services, such as Virtual Earth. The EAA has wider ambitions that just publishing data however. According to the press release Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA said:

“This collaboration is a first of its kind to establish a two-way communication on the environment. Until now, authorities, including the EEA, have communicated their data to the public. But local observers, who are often the first to notice real change in their environment, had difficulties sharing their observations with others. This partnership will provide them a platform to do exactly that”.

Likesay, this is pretty much a canonical Greenmonk story. We are all watchdogs, we are all observers. Science progresses most effectively when research and data are widely distributed. Over 500 million people-that’s a lot of eyeballs. Interestingly enough the EAA is including Turkey in the scheme – so its taking the long, wide view. The EAA has a 13 year history of Open Data, such as making greenhouse gas information available to all, but normally focuses on EU policymakers, rather than citizens. Its great to see them turning the funnel the other way…

In other Microsoft related eco news, brought to my attention by Dominic Campbell, the first social media manager at a UK local authority, Wakefield Council saves over £4m while cutting carbon emissions.A skeptic might say this story was just greenwashing, but at Greenmonk we tend to focus on outcomes, rather than looking for hyprocrisy. As Jamie Hailstone writes: “the council will save more than £4m and cut carbon emissions by 35 tons.” There is a virtuous circle created by marketing efficiency as green. Green is Lean. Microsoft’s virtualisation team could learn a lot from the case study – there is nothing wrong with quick wins. Final bonus link: check out this sexy story about Virtual Earth running on Wind powered-servers.