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Chain GAD: Communications Technologies for Sustainable Development
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The GAD Chain is a concertation mechanism for ACTS projects concerned with the potential impact of their work on Sustainable Development, considered organically in its economic, social and environmental dimensions. Work to date has evolved within a broad framework for the contribution of ICT to sustainability, in terms of: dematerialisation, immaterialisation, rationalisation, inclusion and democratisation. In parallel, special attention is paid to the so-called "rebound effect", whereby sustainability gains in a specific dimension are offset by negative effects (e.g. social exclusion, increased materials consumption, etc.) in the same or other dimensions.
In the rapidly evolving context of the debate on the Information Society, Sustainable Development is taking on a role of increasing importance. Through the GAD Chain, ACTS projects are contributing pro-actively to this debate with concrete future applications scenarios raising new sustainability issues and hypotheses.
Operational objectives are therefore:

  • to define the key issues in which advanced communications can impact on Sustainable Development, with regard to both potential benefits and possible negative effects;
  • to experiment with sustainability impact assessment approaches through which ICT trials can develop scenarios and provide empirical evidence to throw light on the above-mentioned issues;
  • to study how Sustainable Development as an opportunity and business case affects the uptake and usage of ICT;
  • to contribute to the European debate on Sustainable Development, by establishing constructive links with research groups and bodies involving decision-makers responsible for the formulation of Information Society and/or Sustainable Development strategies.

Target Recipients

The wide-ranging scope of GAD Chain activities covers different target audiences, each with a specific intention:

  • Teleservice and application product developers and industrial decision makers: the aim is to sensitize them into reflecting on the importance of sustainability issues and the potential impact on their broader business objectives.
  • Development and trial responsibles (both in and beyond the ACTS programme) and, in parallel, impact assessment experts: to encourage the first group to build impact assessment into their experimentation, and the second to model their tools to the needs of sustainability impact assessment for teleservices and applications.
  • Decision makers, research institutes, and standardisation bodies and regulatory authorities in any way involved in social, environmental and economic issues on the one hand, and technology RTD and implementation on the other: in order to provide a concrete foundation for the integration of Information Society and Sustainable Development approaches and policies.

Activities and expected results

The GAD Chain has adopted an incremental approach to consensus-building, centred around a multi-faceted programme of activities. This includes reflection documents, guidelines based on ACTS research, impact analysis studies, and specifically-oriented project deliverables. Through discussion amongst participating ACTS projects, these are developed into focused guidelines following the common format adopted across the ACTS programme.
Through Chain-led workshops and participation in events, an ever broader range of target actors is involved in interactive processes leading to successive versions of GAD outputs which are increasingly concrete, empirical and shared. In the following, we describe the content of these guidelines, clustered according to nature and target recipients.

A. Conceptual Clarifications and Transitional Scenarios for Sustainable Lifestyles
This is a series of guidelines based on reflection documents with a broad scope, aiming to provide a working framework for the basic issues linking Sustainability and ICT. It also brings together some key issues that emerge as determining factors for the development of sustainable lifestyles.
The following guidelines build on background work and parallel reflections which have accompanied the work of the GAD Chain and participating ACTS projects.

  • GAD A1 ICT, the Information Society and Sustainable Development: presenting basic definitions, a working framework, and basic awareness recommendations. Internal Draft complete; ACTS Community Draft 9.97; Endorsement Draft 11.97.
  • GAD A2 Balancing between Information and Materials: looking at the new equilibria required between information and materials, virtuality and reality, centrality and peripherality, etc. with recommendations for further research. Internal Draft 9.97; ACTS Community Draft 11.97; Endorsement Draft 1.98.
  • GAD A3 Sustainability as a Business Case, reviewing the arguments in favour of the business community taking a leading role in promoting Sustainability, including issues such as new accounting methods which take externalities into account, standardisation of impact parameters and methods, etc. Internal Draft 9.97; ACTS Community Draft 11.97; Endorsement Draft 1.98.
  • GAD A4 Socially Sustainable Best Practice of Workflow Re-engineering: the shifting role of the information flow structure amongst SMEs and the increased viability of local communities linked to the growth of ITC-based micro-SMEs. Internal Draft Complete; ACTS Community Draft 9.97; Endorsement Draft 11.97.

B. Sustainability Issues in ICT Application Sectors
This is a series of more technical guidelines which draw directly on the research work of ACTS projects involved in trials and experimentations of advanced teleservices and applications. According to the nature of each, sustainability issues are investigated for different sectors and/or user groups.

  • GAD B1 Residential Broad-band Access: the impact of symmetrical systems based on mature cable TV networks, and the potential impact of large-scale trials based on "natural communication groups". Internal Draft complete; ACTS Community Draft 6.97; Endorsement Draft 9.97.
  • GAD B2 Impact Assessment of ICT Applications in High-material Consumption Industries (e.g. construction, transport): balancing the assessment of the impact of ITC on manufacturing with a look at the construction and transport industries, which highlights the need for an understanding of the social factors of virtual communication. Internal Draft complete; ACTS Community Draft 9.97; Endorsement Draft 11.97.
  • GAD B3 Impact of ICT for the Empowerment of People with Special Needs: relating the new role of information as the key to empowerment to the benefits of "investing in autonomy", in a context where the idea of handicap is defined by the socio-economic environment. Internal Draft complete; ACTS Community Draft 6.97; Endorsement Draft 9.97.

C. Sustainability Impact Assessment
This activity grows out of co-operation in the GAD Chain between projects in the ACTS Horizontal Domain and projects actively implementing ICT trials. Several workshops held and planned provide the opportunity to discuss and evaluate impact assessment tools, which are then applied to scenarios built upon the advanced applications experimented in ACTS trials.
The outcomes of this activity are represented in two guidelines:

  • GAD C1 Procedures for Assessing the Impact on Sustainable Development of Applications Using Teleservices: an investigation of the need for impact assessment techniques, an overview of currently available techniques and approaches, and how their implementation in ICT trials can contribute to the development of a common practice. Internal Draft complete; ACTS Community Draft 9.97; Endorsement Draft 11.97.
  • GAD C2 Assessing Sustainable ICT Application Scenarios: how scenario-building methodologies linked with simulation and decision-support tools can be used to evaluate the impact of ICT adoption and implementation decisions on local strategies for Sustainable Development. Internal Draft Complete; ACTS Community Draft 9.97; Endorsement Draft 11.97.

D. Contributions to the European Sustainable Development Debate
An important goal of the GAD Chain is to feed in to the broader policy debate on the relation of the Information Society to Sustainable Development, at the local, regional, national and European levels.
Work draws heavily on deliverables of the ACTS EPRI-WATCH project (GAD Chain leader) especially conceived to feed into the GAD Chain, as well as concertation with initiatives such as the Information Society Forum's Working Group 4 on Sustainable Development, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS, Seville), Eurescom ETNO, the World Future Studies Federation, the Commission's Cellule de Prospective, and the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen.
The outcomes of these activities are synthesized in discussions of GAD Chain participants, and put forward in the following guideline:

  • GAD D1 Policy Directions for ICT and Sustainability: commenting and reviewing the evolution of the policy debate and European, national and regional initiatives relating the Information Society to Sustainable Development. Internal Draft 9.97; ACTS Community Draft 11.97; Endorsement Draft 1.98.

In addition, the constantly updated overview of policy actions and initiatives at the European level constitutes the GAD Chain's "Common Field of Interest" in the EPRI-WATCH Information Space (

The GAD Chain proposes itself as a common forum for discussion on the issues of Information Society and Sustainable Development, and aims to attract the broadest range of actors in its guideline endorsement and consensus-building processes. Beyond on-going contacts with the groups mentioned above, the GAD Chain actively participates in International events (HUSITA Conference, Rovaniemi, 6.96; Telework Week 96, Vienna, ENTAG, 5.97) as well as working-group seminars.

Participants (See ACTS projects page for further information on individual projects.)

  • AVANTI (AC042)
  • CICC (AC017)
  • DIPLOMAT (AC222)
  • ETD (AC223)
  • FAIR (AC093)
  • IBCOBN (AC101)
  • MICC (AC088)
  • OPTIMUM (AC226)
  • RESOLV (AC021)
  • SEMPER (AC026)
  • SMARTS (P-566)
  • TECODIS (AC064)
  • TEESURA (AC230)
  • TOBASCO (AC028)
  • USINACTS (AC224)


Matti Penttilä (email removed)

EC Monitors

Kiveli Ringou (email removed)
Maarten Botterman (email removed)