An unmissable new Herald podcast is bringing together the country's leading experts on climate change and sustainability for a series of stimulating head-to-head debates.

THIS WEEK: Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK

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THE Herald’s Climate Conversations podcast, in association with Epson, this week welcomes Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK – a not-for-profit organisation for the business of ‘open technology’ in the UK.

Host Marc Strathie, Head of Research and Policy for Scotland IS, joins Amanda in debate as they discuss  industry insights into green-tech and how behaviours surrounding open technology are changing to incorporate sustainable practices.

Brock herself is involved in a vast number of sustainable projects, networks and is a board member for groups related to open technology.

She has been CEO of OpenUK for over two years, an organisation which deals with matters related to open source software, open hardware and open data.

The term ‘open source’ describes software that is available on an open source licence that shares the source code or human readable code, and allows anyone using the code on that licence to maintain and modify the code.

A lawyer with 25 years’ experience, Brock also chaired the Open Source and IIP Advisory Group of the United Nations Technology Innovation Labs and was General Counsel of Canonical for five years. More recently, she was nominated for Woman of the Year at the Women in IT Awards (winner announced on 28 February).

As the podcast kicks off, Brock begins on a personal note. She talks about growing up in Crieff and how her family continue to challenge and inspire her outlook on the impact of sustainability. “My 10-year-old nephew, Ronan, is very determined when it comes to climate change and so passionate about pushing the message out,” she explains.

“He’s probably the single biggest influence on my shift in thinking – the planet that we’re on is ours for now but it will be his for the future.”

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Despite recognising that youth movements are a vital part of progression, Brock highlights a desire to avoid being associated with youth-washing or green-washing but does stress the importance of collaboration.

“Part of how sustainability evolves is about collective equity and getting people to the table and not telling people what it is they need, but understanding what it is they want themselves, or what it is that is missing or needs changed in their lives,” she says. “And that collective equity piece is a very big part of open source software.

“Some in the organisation viewed COP as hugely successful and commended all the businesses and corporations who showed up. Then you’ll see other people from my organisation on a completely different trajectory of opinion, they do not view it as successful, they think there’s more needing done and that youth groups are leading the way.

“I think that healthy diversity of opinion and bit of friction is necessary for us to get to a successful endpoint.”

Despite OpenUK’s full-day event at COP26, Brock stresses that many spectators expected a stronger presence from the technical and sustainability sectors.

She says: “It was interesting to see that being felt by our own communities. I don’t think the tech sector was there with enough strength, and I think we’re just getting our heads round the many other sectors.”

When Marc questions Brock on whether legislative forces would be more effective than relying on consumer behavioural changes, she responds: “If I think about it from my perspective, and my skillset and experience in technology, one of the things that we regularly say, and said throughout COP26, is that technology will never be the solution. It’s a tool. It’s something that can help deliver better solutions.

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“But it does allow recycling of code, it allows products to last longer because you can open it up and fix it. Which would mean that we’re not forced to change our phones, we’re not forced to change our TVs that are still working fine if it just needed a wee fix.

“Allowing products to last longer isn’t in the interest of companies selling the product, but it is in the interest of society, and it’s one of the benefits that we see in opening up the technologies.”

When discussing green-tech and possible future solutions, the topic inevitably turns to data centres. Brock admits she’s learned a good deal about data centres in the last 18 months: “Probably more than I ever wanted to know,” she laughs.

She emphasises a need to use heat generation from data centres to be fed back into communities. She says: “In Dundee you have the Eden Project being built – why not put a data centre next to it and let it heat it?”

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To listen to the new episode, brought to you in association with Epson, simply search for Herald Climate Conversations in your favourite app store or scan the Spotify link above.