Advancing Life & Work

The next billion are coming. Are we ready?

With another billion people coming online, we must rethink how to meet this growing demand in a resource-constrained world. Lara Birkes shares thoughts from Quartz’s The Next Billion event, and how HPE is responding to the challenge.  


The projections are staggering.

By 2030, we’ll have one billion more people on our planet with just over half the world’s population—about 4.5 billion—connected online.  This access is crucial to extending inclusion in education, health and financial institutions.  Without it, large swaths of society remain locked-out of the benefits of technology, creating a growing chasm between opportunity and exclusion. 

But connectivity comes at a high cost.  In 2015 alone, the data centers supporting our every search consumed more electricity than that of the entire United Kingdom. If left unchecked, this figure is projected to triple by 2020. 

The current IT infrastructure powering the way we live, learn, play and work consumes an exorbitant amount of energy.  The trend is unsustainable, but solutions lie in the advancements companies like HPE drive.

Last week’s Quartz Next Billion gathering in San Francisco explored these frictions; considering the expansion of our connected world and what it means for society at large.  Chief Architect with Hewlett Packard Labs, Kirk Bresniker, and I joined this community of thinkers, problem solvers and innovators to consider solutions given our respective roles.

As a technology company, HPE recognizes the challenge of meeting the high—and growing—demand for connectivity in a resource-constrained world.  We also understand it is imperative to make sustainability a driver of innovation. 

Hewlett Packard Labs’ research project, The Machine, is an excellent example of how resource efficiency is driving our improvements. By rethinking the way computing happens, we’re enabling it to be far more powerful while consuming far less energy.

Instead of processors, we put memory at the core of what we call “Memory-Driven Computing.” This collapses the memory and storage into one vast universal pool. Using light instead of copper cables, we’ll create greater capacity for information transmission with much lower power. 

This is just a sampling of the host of transformative solutions  Hewlett Packard Labs is exploring to manage data at a fraction of the time, space and energy required today. 

Leveraging technology to solve the world’s toughest problems means designing our own highly optimized systems first.  As HPE channels innovation to rebuild the backbone of IT infrastructure, we recognize this unleashes the potential to bring the next billion online without diminishing the Planet’s natural resources.

As has always been the case, necessity will serve as the mother of invention. 


Lara Birkes
Former Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President


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Lara Birkes is HPE’s former Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President, Living Progress. Follow Lara @LaraBirkes