T he Indian ICT industry is booming, with PC sales hitting a record 6.5 million units, laptops at 1.8 million, and mobile phones slated to touch a record 250 million. It feels good to see the common man from each income group walking around with a mobile phone. It also feels good to see so many people being able to afford a PC or laptop. We should indeed, all feel proud of this feat and have every right to gloat at the positive impact ICT is creating on the Indian economy and our lives. But at the same time, we must also stop and think a little about what would happen to all those millions of units when they become obsolete and useless. Where will they go? Such obsolete equipment is known as e-waste, and countries like US are already struggling with ways to get rid of it. If you think that we have nothing to worry about, then you'll change your mind after hearing the statistics. According to a recent report by MAIT, 3.3 lakh tonnes of e-waste was generated in India last year alone, and an additional 50,000 tonnes came in through illegal imports from developed countries. This figure is large by any account, and will only grow. Currently, most of this e-waste ends up in landfills or burnt to recover parts. It produces toxins that are hazardous for human health and the environment. Some of these are Barium, Cadmium, Lead, Lithium, Mercury, brominated flame retardants, etc ; which can cause serious health problems like birth defects, damage to vital organs like heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, etc. The sad part is that most of this recycling is being done by the informal sector, which is not at all equipped to handle it properly. So these toxins are freely let into the air and seep into ground water and drainage systems. It's ironic to see India, which has been getting the benefits of the latest technologies because of being a late adopter, is also feeling the after effects! So the question now is what do we do besides waiting for the govt. to come out with e-waste management policies, or for some entrepreneurs to take it as a potential business opportunity and setup recycling facilities? The positive side to all this is that since we're already aware of the impending disaster, it can be nipped in the bud. And the way to do it is to plan ahead. Keep the disposal cost of your IT equipment in mind at the time of purchasing it, just as you account for its initial purchase, running, and maintenance costs. For this, you need to tie-up with a vendor who specializes in e-waste management. Perhaps the vendor you're purchasing the equipment from can help you in this. Alternately, you could compare this overall cost against the cost of leasing it, which is where the managed IT services market comes in. Simply outsource all your hardware to a vendor and let him worry about its disposal. If nothing else works, then simply use your IT equipment for as long as possible, and donate it while still in working condition to the needy, instead of spending money to keep it safely locked up in stores. We discovered some other interesting statistics on this from a survey we conducted of 144 CIOs for our cover story on Green computing in this issue. Do check it out!
Anil Chopra, Editor