Software and Sustainability: Towards an Ethical Digital Society

Modern society is growing increasingly digital. At the same time, it aims to be inclusive, to increase the quality of life, to tune and adapt for the need of different contexts, and last but not least, to decrease its environmental footprint as we learn how to best integrate, apply, and prioritize sustainability.

Course level
Master, PhD candidates and professionals from all disciplines
Session 2
11 January to 18 January 2020 
Coordinating lecturer                                  Prof. Patricia Lago
Other lecturers
Dr. Eltjo Poort (CGI), Mr. Roberto Verdecchia (VU)
Form(s) of instructionLectures, project assignments, discussions, group work
Form(s) of assessmentIndividual project, presentation
ECTS3 credits
Contact hours30 hours (5 days, 3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon)
Tuition fee

€800 - non-VU students and staff

€500 - VU students and staff

This course will benefit Master and PhD students in Computer Science or related disciplines, Master and PhD students in fields where digitalization plays a significant role within the research or workload.

Overall, students with a strong interest in the impact that software and digitalization can, and should, have for sustainability and the energy transition will excel in this course. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please contact us: [email protected]

In spite of the exciting hype around sustainability, however, we are very much lacking suitable instruments to design digital solutions, and in particular software solutions, which are sustainable and enable the above-mentioned sustainability goals. To fill this gap, we advocate the treatment of sustainability as a software quality property and define a method that helps make sustainability-driven design decisions.

The method essentially relies on the definition of so-called decision maps, i.e. views aimed at framing the architecture design concerns around four sustainability dimensions - technical, economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The course will teach students how to identify sustainability related concerns in inter-disciplinary projects, model them in ‘decision maps’ and reflect on the sustainability impact of decisions made during such projects with respect to the different sustainability dimensions. This course’s participants will be urged to bring their own project, if possible. Otherwise, a project will be offered as playground in which students can explore and develop their own personal sustainability framework.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
•    Understand the notion of sustainability and its impact over time
•    Apply sustainability analysis to a concrete project, develop critical thinking skills
•    Learn on how to quantify and qualify sustainability impacts and the role of design decisions in an inter-disciplinary context

Scientific papers will be distributed before the course along with assignment descriptions.

Prof. Patricia Lago

Patricia Lago is Professor of Software Engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she leads the Software and Services (S2) research group in the Computer Science Department. Her research is in software architecture, software and service design, software quality assessment and software sustainability.

She is initiator and coordinator of the Computer Science Master Track in Software Engineering and Green IT, and co-founder of the Green Lab, a place where researchers, students and companies collaborate to measure the energy- and sustainability footprint of software solutions and the impact on software quality.

She is in the management team of IPN (ICT-research Platform Netherlands), and Vice-chair of VERSEN, the Dutch National Association for Software Engineering.

She is member of the Steering Committees of conference series IEEE ICSA, ECSA and ICT4S; member of the IFIP 2.10 Working group on Software Architecture, the IFIP 2.14 Working group on Services-based Systems, the Dutch Knowledge Network on Green Software, and of 'Het Groene Brein'.


Her passion in research is to create software engineering knowledge that makes software better, smarter, and more sustainable.

She is specialized in architecture design decision making and quality assessment, with a special focus on software innovation, sustainable software, and software for sustainability.


Teaching courses:

    Service Oriented Design
    Software Architecture

Coordinator of courses:

    Literature Study and Seminar
    Developing Services for the Cloud

Lecturer in courses:

    Introduction to Computer Science
    Bachelor Project Information Sciences

Ancillary activities

    Elsevier, Journal of Systems and Softwar | Nvt | Area editor | 2013-12-16 - present