The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Digital Taxonomy for Sustainability

Townsend, Jack H. (2015) Digital Taxonomy for Sustainability ICT for Sustainability 2015

Record type: Monograph (Project Report)


Previous strategic analyses of the field of ICT for sustainability (ICT4S) have often underplayed the role of ICTs in linking large numbers of people, in shaping and transferring ideas, and also the range of sustainability effects that ICTs can cause. The Digital Taxonomy for Sustainability ( was developed to address this, through a qualitative analysis of over 500 ICT4S company descriptions. It classifies a digital system (software, hardware and social machines) by the digital “means” it employs and the sustainability “ends” it achieves. The possibilities are mapped out with two component taxonomies. The Sustainability Taxonomy identifies around 20 possible sustainability effects of a digital system, such as the sustainable use of natural resources. The Digital Taxonomy identifies over 80 genres of digital system organised onto a matrix. The rows distinguish how the increasing power of digital systems (the digital capabilities) can be applied to the various stages necessary for achieving change, the change processes that form the columns of the matrix. The indirect change processes (assessing, innovating, and adopting) develop and propagate ideas or things to cause the effects, whilst the driving change process acts to cause the effects directly. The digital capabilities are the three ways ICTs can engage with people to drive change: for artificial capability, the ICT provides the action automatically; for augmented capability, the ICT guides them, to inform and influence their behaviour; and for collective capability, the ICT connects them with others, developing networks that link supply and demand. The rapid development and proliferation of ICTs is increasing the power of all three capabilities. This systematic mapping out of the structure of the industry and the field may help stakeholders coordinate, raise external awareness, and inform the development of theory. In particular, it helps identify opportunities for new and better ICT4S systems

PDF AE2 - jack townsend - ict4s 2015 - taxonomy[st4].pdf - Accepted Manuscript
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.
Download (1MB)

More information

Accepted/In Press date: June 2015
Keywords: Web science, human computer interaction, computer science, collective intelligence, smart cities, social machines, ICT for sustainability, cleanweb, sustainable HCI, artificial intelligence, internet science, sustainability science.
Organisations: Electronics & Computer Science


Local EPrints ID: 378266
PURE UUID: b996b144-54c4-464f-baab-1fca40f7dd2c

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 29 Jun 2015 12:49
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 20:53

Export record


Author: Jack H. Townsend

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.