Software and Sustainability: Towards an Ethical Digital Society

Note: all our courses are taught online this year.

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 days11-15 January 2021
Course levelMaster, PhD candidates and professionals from all disciplines 
Coordinating lecturerProf. Dr. Patricia Lago
Other lecturersDr. Eltjo Poort (CGI), Mr. Roberto Verdecchia (VU), Prof. Dr. Philipp Pattberg (VU)
Forms of tuitionOnline lectures, project assignments, discussions, group work 
Forms of assessmentIndividual project, presentation
Credits3 ECTS
Contact hours30 hours
Tuition feeRead all information about our tuition fees and what's included here  
How to applyFind our application form here 

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.


Patricia Lago is Professor of Software Engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she leads the Software and Sustainability (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 director of the Master Information Sciences, initiator 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 a member of VERSEN, the Dutch National Association for Software Engineering.

She is a 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
    Digitalization and Sustainability
  • Coordinator of courses:
    Literature Study and Seminar
    Software Architecture
    Software Containerization
  • Lecturer in courses:
    Introduction to Computer Science
    Bachelor Project Information Sciences

Ancillary activities

Elsevier,Journal of Systems and Software | Nvt | Senior Associate Editor | 2013-12-16 - present