Veritas Technologies has released results from a survey “In the Cloud, Out of Mind”, revealing that the environmentally aware Generation Z is not necessarily conscious of how their personal digital footprint from online accounts and applications is negatively impacting the environment.
Over half of the data stored in data centres by businesses is waste data. Unwittingly contributing to this are the 57% of Gen Z consumers, who said they have dormant online accounts for their banking, online shopping, entertainment, insurance, mobile phones, broadband, and utility services that they no longer use. This figure is higher than for any other age group in the UAE – by comparison, just over one-third (38%) of consumers over 55 have dormant online accounts.
In a pattern that was seen across the global survey, the research revealed a perception gap among Generation Z. Seven in ten (72%) UAE Gen Zs said they believe their online accounts have no negative impact on the environment. Yet more than half (60%) also said it’s wrong for businesses to waste energy and cause pollution by storing unneeded information online.
Ramzi Itani, Regional Director of Emerging Region at Veritas, said: “Today, we have online accounts for almost everything, and each of these accounts generates cloud-based data. Yet millions of those accounts go unused, particularly among the Gen Z demographic. The largely useless data that comes with these accounts sits idle in data centres, which are mostly fossil fuel-powered and operate 24 hours a day. In fact, data centres account for 2% of all global carbon emissions about the same as the entire airline industry. Gen Z is arguably the most environmentally conscious generation that has ever existed, but without necessarily knowing, they’re also leading the way among consumers in creating the most carbon emissions through their dormant cloud account data.”
The survey, which polled 13,000 consumers around the world (with 500 respondents from the UAE), also uncovered the following related trends among Generation Z adults in the UAE:
- Nine in ten (90%) have entertainment and shopping accounts that they never touch, with more than a third (37%) having 3 or more dormant accounts.
- More than three-quarters (77%) have at least one online bank account they no longer use.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) have an insurance account they no longer use.
- Three-fifths (63%) have an internet service or mobile phone provider account they no longer use.
- Half (50%) have utility accounts they no longer access.
- A similar number (57%) have healthcare accounts no longer in use.
The research shows that encouragingly most UAE Generation Z consumers (73%) have attempted to close these dormant accounts. Of the minority (27%) who said they had never tried to close their unused accounts, the most common reasons given were that they may need it one day (63%) and they couldn’t remember their password (25%).
This sentiment differs significantly from the global findings, where the leading reason cited by Gen Zs in other countries for not closing unused accounts was that it doesn’t matter to them personally (33%). Interestingly, 0% of UAE Gen Zs polled in the UAE gave this response.
Itani added: “There’s a significant information gap if even Gen Z is unaware of the environmental consequences of storing unnecessary data. We all need to be empowered to make good decisions about our online lives and digital footprints—or this issue risks snowballing into a sustainability nightmare. With the UAE working so hard to achieve its net zero goals by 2050, every single one of us has a role to play in addressing our individual impact and putting a stop to this negative trend.
“Easy steps to take are deleting online accounts, images, and documents that we no longer use and unsubscribing from, as well as deleting emails, when we don’t need to store them. Businesses can help by making it easier for people to be responsible about their online data presence. Many websites and applications require people to create an account before they can access certain content or features. However, if users do not find the content relevant or useful, they may never return to these websites or apps. This can also result in a large number of dormant accounts which could simply be solved by businesses adopting a policy to delete these unused accounts within a certain time period. Similarly by reminding customers to close down their inactive personal online accounts and making it a simple process for them to do so, business can ease the burden on all generations from creating digital waste, not least Generation Z.”