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Greening through Software

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) has produced profound advances — yet it has also contributed to the exploitation of our planet’s natural resources. Where others see crisis, Professor Debra Richardson sees opportunity. “Development presents challenges, but software engineering offers considerable potential for making our planet greener in the long run.” she says. Her goal is to change how systems are created, encouraging developers to think about ways in which they might make users’ behavior more sustainable. “Doing so,” she says, “will enable us to strengthen our environment and our communities.”

Universal Access

Through her research, Professor Richardson approaches problems by tackling them at the root. For instance, the influence of the Internet, mobile phones, tablets and other forms of ICT crosses national borders and transcends socioeconomic boundaries. Despite ICT being a global market, however, a select few countries have a monopoly on its design and engineering. This can result, Professor Richardson says, in a form of “technological hubris, because ICT products often end up reflecting select developers’ perceptions of user needs, not their actual quality-of-life needs.” By re-focusing requirements engineering techniques, she is seeking to alter this equation.

Inspiring Change

Professor Richardson has emerged as a national voice for women and underrepresented minorities in technology. “I’m passionate about increasing their participation in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields, but especially in computing,” she says. She currently leads a California state effort to expand computer science education in high schools. “If I can change the lives of just a few young kids, who then create new technology that benefits people everywhere, I will have succeeded,” she says.


Debra Richardson
“Software engineering offers considerable potential for making our planet greener.”

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