The power-hungry internet - digitalization’s dark side | Close up - The Current Affairs Documentary | DW | 18.12.2018
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The power-hungry internet - digitalization’s dark side

If it was a country, the internet would rank sixth in the world for the amount of energy it uses. Data centers in the German city - Frankfurt alone need more energy than the city's international airport - one of the world's largest.

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Many people don't realize that the internet is supported by an extensive network of data-processing centers, and transmission lines and hubs. And that network consumes an enormous amount of energy. If it were a country, the internet would rank sixth in the world for the amount of energy it uses and carbon it emits. Data centers in the German city of Frankfurt alone need more energy than the city's international airport -- one of the world's largest. And the internet's power demands are set to continue to grow as smartphones, tablets and internet-connected devices process ever-more data. On average the amount of web-based services on offer doubles every 18 months. That encompasses everything from home and business technology to media streaming and self-driving cars, even the use of popular search engines like Google - simple clicks conducted a billion times over, all around the world. What are big IT companies doing to make this web-based electricity consumption more efficient and environmentally friendly? To find out, our reporters go behind the scenes at software giants like SAP, interview university students about their use of digital technology, and visit a huge underground server farm in Norway. Neighboring Sweden may have a solution to the problem of rampant web-based energy consumption. The city of Stockholm is working to reduce its environmental footprint -- in part by re-using waste heat from digital data centers.