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Circular digital devices: lessons about the social and planetary boundaries

TitleCircular digital devices: lessons about the social and planetary boundaries
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsRoura, M, Franquesa, D, Navarro, L, Meseguer, R
Conference NameWorkshop on Computing within Limits
Date Published06/2021
Conference LocationNew York
AbstractThe digital world can be part of the solution to the coexistence of people and the planet, with large efficiencies gained through digital solutions, but it is part of the problem too, as it requires vast natural resources for digital devices in terms of participation. The challenge lies in satisfying the demand for digital devices for everyone, particularly for those with scarce resources, while preserving planetary limits. We have implemented and optimised a circular economy ecosystem that —through donation, refurbishment and traceability— delivers locally reused digital devices at a fair economic and environmental cost to citizens in need, providing satisfactory computing services and reducing the demand to manufacture new devices, which instead must be more durable. Following the sourcing of 10,000 computers, 1,000 have been successfully refurbished by local social enterprises and used by citizens in the city of Barcelona as a common good, herein we present an analysis of the achievements, limitations, and conditions of this model, which has already been replicated in other areas. It is feasible, and we also explore its scalability and sustainability in economic, social, and environmental contexts. We identify critical success factors, such as the roles of local public or private donors, social-support organisations, and ecosystem facilitators, in mediating among all actors involved.