August 25, 2010 By Elaine Pittman
Knox County, Tenn., is promoting the event not only internally to its employees, but also externally to citizens and businesses.
There are about 3.8 million state and local government employees in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If each of those workers shut off their computer, monitor and printer at the end of a workday it would save about 4.9 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy -- enough to power more than 5,300 homes for one month.
Friday, Aug. 27, will mark the third-annual Power IT Down Day, an event that encourages the public and private sectors to turn off their IT equipment at the end of the workday to save energy. For each person who participates in the event, an average of 13 kWh will be saved for each night the equipment is turned off. Participants can sign up at www.powerITdown.org. The event is sponsored by Citrix, Intel, HP and GTSI, which are working together to spread the word on benefits of energy-efficient initiatives.
"The whole concept is around raising awareness of what individual information technology users can do to contribute to green IT efforts and the overall conservation of energy within an organization," said Tom Simmons, the area vice president for U.S. Public Sector at Citrix. "Our primary focus is awareness in government because it's the largest single user of information technology out there, but we are also targeting the industry that supports government and will expand it as broad and wide as we can."
Agencies at all levels of government have inquired about how to participate, and at least 11 counties are promoting Power IT Down Day. One of the government participants is Knox County, Tenn., which is promoting the event not only internally to its employees, but also externally to citizens and businesses. Communications Director Susanne Dupes said the county's Green Team, a recently started public program, is promoting the event to residents. County commissioners also have been tasked with getting businesses in their districts involved.
Knox County is using its Facebook page to give public recognition to companies that are going to participate, and internally in the government, department heads are encouraging employee participation. "We're just trying to reach out as broadly as we can to let people know about it," Dupes said.
Dupes also said she will receive feedback on the number of county government employees who participate because the online registration requires an e-mail address. Power IT Down Day representatives won't share the names of participants, but will be able to track how many people from a specific e-mail domain registered and will report the numbers using that information.
In 2009, 5,600 people registered to participate in Power IT Down Day. This year the sponsors hope to get 6,100 individuals to turn off their technology. Because Aug. 27 falls on Friday this year, there will be the added benefit of energy savings while IT equipment is turned off for the weekend.
Although powering IT down for one day is a good initiative, Simmons hopes it will become engrained in people's habits. "If we can figure out how to go back and turn that stuff off -- plug it into a power strip and turn the power strip off or physically unplug the device -- we can get substantial energy savings that when applied across a whole government organization or the government in general, can make a tremendous impact on energy consumption and the associated savings," he said.
Knox County is making energy efficiency part of its government culture, not just a focus on Friday. The Green Team is getting citizens to pledge to Take 10 for the Environment, a program that includes promising to unplug unused appliances. Dupes said the county also is implementing energy efficiency upgrades in all of its buildings with the goal of cutting its energy bill by one-third.
It's important for participants to register individually and not as an organization because if the 6,100-person goal is met, the sponsors will make a $45,000 donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides programs for severely injured members of the armed services.
"It's a symbolic contribution to show that if we don't spend [money] on energy, we can spend it on very good and important things," Simmons said.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.