Rethinking Sustainability Requirements: Drivers, Barriers and Impacts of Digitalisation from the Viewpoint of Experts

05/06/2021
by   Alessio Ferrari, et al.
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Requirements engineering (RE) is a key area to address sustainability concerns in system development. Approaches have been proposed to elicit sustainability requirements from interested stakeholders before system design. However, existing strategies lack the proper high-level view to deal with the societal and long-term impacts of the transformation entailed by the introduction of a new technological solution. This paper proposes to go beyond the concept of system requirements and stakeholders' goals, and raise the degree of abstraction by focusing on the notions of drivers, barriers and impacts that a system can have on the environment in which it is deployed. Furthermore, we suggest to narrow the perspective to a single domain, as the effect of a technology is context-dependent. To put this vision into practice, we interview 30 cross-disciplinary experts in the representative domain of rural areas, and we analyse the transcripts to identify common themes. As a result, we provide drivers, barriers and positive or negative impacts associated to the introduction of novel technical solutions in rural areas. This RE-relevant information could hardly be identified if interested stakeholders were interviewed before the development of a single specific system. This paper contributes to the literature with a fresh perspective on sustainability requirements, and with a domain-specific framework grounded on experts' opinions. The conceptual framework resulting from our analysis can be used as a reference baseline for requirements elicitation endeavours in rural areas that need to account for sustainability concerns.

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