If it is agreed that the information and communications technologies (ICTs) generate structural change in the economy, can this new driving force for growth operate without harming the environment?
The authors of this article take as their starting point the hypothesis that the ICTs are good for the environment. The shift to intangible economic factors (an intelligence-based economy, with products just in time, just enough, just for you, substitution of information for physical capital, of services for goods) brings with it economic benefits and lower consumption of natural resources.
However, the ICTs are not always synonymous with environmental conservation. The rapid obsolescence of computers, the manufacture of semi-conductors or the illusory "paper-less office" soon become sources of pollution. The initial environmental benefits may then be offset by a boomerang effect: increasing energy use, growth of electronic waste, pollution...
After having shown that much research needs to be done to find support for the basic hypothesis, the authors highlight the consensus view among commentators as to the potentially beneficial effects of the NICT on improving environmental technologies. Captors, visualization technologies, computer-based interactive simulators and many other innovations and tools to help in decision-making have a key role to play in the sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.