Computer science with an environmentally conscious lens

New technologies have allowed users to virtualize the physical in transportation, manufacturing and much more. For example, web-conferencing has become a solution for national and international companies allowing employees to communicate regardless of their location. Such technologies, that we are becoming more reliant upon, are yielding benefits in energy and resource use and decreasing environmental impact. Researchers are now investigating what the ramifications for such technologies may be in our futures; despite their environmentally friendly outcomes, scientists hope to continue to work towards the most sustainable practices thereby ensuring a viable future. Leading this charge is Dr. Barath Raghavan, of the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI), who uses technology to create a more socially responsible world. While his research is comprised of several seemingly unrelated projects, they have a cohesive theme of looking at and building computing systems and their interaction with society in a holistic manner. In addition to decreasing the environmental footprint of technology, Dr. Raghavan also works to make communication tools ubiquitous, secure, and affordable for the international community. Upon completion, his projects will secure Internet access for rural users, prevent government-imposed censorship, and decrease the energy and resource footprint of the Internet and related technologies.

Dr. Raghavan has a strong technical background in computer networking, security, and applied cryptography, and has developed that knowledge base over many years both in academic research and research and development in industry and consulting. Paired with this strong technical background is a deep interest in ecology, sustainability, energy, and resource analysis which has thus led him to innovative work that asks unprecedented questions. He and his team work on questions that, if they were not working on them, would go unanswered. His holistic approach does not isolate research on computing or communication technology but rather integrates them more broadly as a part of society that interacts with social, economic, ecological, and energetic limits. In short, his research addresses the need for global access to the basic needs of modern life in a way that fits within the ecological limits of the Earth.

Current research includes:

  • Near Term: Dr. Raghavan's near term (3-5 years) projects make communication tools more ubiquitous, secure, and affordable.

    • Government-imposed Communication Blackouts: Dr. Raghavan leads a group working to prevent government-imposed Internet/communication blackouts by building a mobile device mesh that ensures user anonymity and evades any attempts at censorship.

    • Rural Internet Access: Dr. Raghavan leads a team that is applying the ideas of Software Defined Networking (SDN) to the context of rural Internet access, to make it easier and more affordable to deliver broadband Internet to the millions and billions of people who cannot get it today.

  • Longer Term: Dr. Raghavan's longer term (5-15 years) projects use computing and communication to build an ecologically sustainable society.

    • Analysis: Dr. Raghavan evaluates the physical, ecological, and social contexts in which networking and computing exist. For example, he and his team performed the first comprehensive analysis of the global energy footprint on the Internet, and the first analysis of the material resources required for modern communication.

    • Design: This work focuses on the twin challenges of making computing itself more sustainable, and in using computing to help make society more sustainable as a whole. As part of this theme, he has co-founded a new research conference with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley and Irvine and around the world and is co-chair of the inaugural meeting this coming year.


Barath Raghavan is a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, CA. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC San Diego in 2009 and his B.S. in EECS from UC Berkeley in 2002. He received the 2007 ACM SIGCOMM best paper award, the GreenNets 2011 best paper award, and a 2004 NSF graduate research fellowship. Barath's research interests include Internet architecture, energy and sustainability, security, distributed systems, and applied cryptography.

Dr. Raghavan has always had an insatiable curiosity about the world around him and as a computer scientist this led him to study how systems of all sorts are assembled into an interconnected whole. He is most interested in asking questions that would not be asked let alone answered if he did not pursue them. This approach has led him to do research on a diverse range of topics from networking and security to sustainable computing and information and communication technologies for development (ICTD).

In his free time, aside from research, Dr. Raghavan enjoys what he terms, "sustainable hobbies." From gardening to spending time in the outdoors, you can often find him on the rooftop of the ICSI building on the garden that he started for everyone to enjoy!



ACM SIGCOMM Green Networking Workshop best paper award, 2011

ACM SIGCOMM Conference best paper award, 2007

Woolley Graduate Leadership Fellowship, 2006

PhD Fellowships at MIT, CMU, and University of Washington (declined), 2004

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 2004