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Technology versus the personal touch

Paul S AllenThere’s an assumption – be it in government or enterprise – that people have the understanding and the skills required to use technology.

For example, filing company returns has to be done online, and accessing assistance in some cases can only be done via a website. So many services require people to have an internet capable device/smart phone to get the best value or benefit. But what about those who for one reason or another do not or cannot get access to the internet? Should they be penalised or disadvantaged?

This is a reminder to all:

* Not everyone has access to the internet! Of those who do, not everyone has access to quality broadband infrastructure. New Zealand has one of the poorest broadband infrastructures in the developed world.

* Not everyone has a mobile phone! Not all mobile phones are smartphones.

* Not everyone has a Facebook account or is connected to the world via social media.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love technology. It can be a fantastic tool for social interaction and productivity. I love my gadgets and hardware, I love broadband connectivity. I have met (virtually) many people both here in New Zealand and all over the world because of social media. But these virtual networks will never replace real, personal and physical interactions that are important for normal human life experience.

The more I use technology, the more I start to value walking into a shop and interacting with the staff or picking up a telephone and talking to someone, rather than sending emails or status updates to each other.

The online experience should enhance offline personal interactions – not replace them.

I have been shopping around for a walking stick for my wife who has a long-term debilitating illness (Myalgic Encephalopathy / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I did not just want any walking stick; I wanted one that was practical and most importantly looked good.

We had seen a few around and found a great selection on the Disability Resource Centre website, but the small thumbnail gave no impression as to how it felt or how true the colours were. It was only when I called into the showroom in Auckland on a recent trip and spoke with the staff that I chose the right size and colour. The staff were incredibly knowledgeable, helpful and friendly, especially important for the type of purchase that I was making.

Now I have seen how this organisation works and who the staff are, I would have no problem using their website for other orders, but if I lived closer I would still prefer to call in person.

Technology can be a great benefit for many and even provide a way to communicate with the outside world, but to assume that everyone has access or adequate services is a mistake.

No matter how good your website is or how accurate the information, people often need someone to talk to, to bounce ideas around with and who can give an immediate response to questions.

Making the assumption that everyone will use your app, visit your website, read the information, or even know where to start looking, could alienate the people you need to connect with.

Social interaction doesn’t just mean setting up a social media account – it means a real person connecting with a real person.

Paul S Allen 

Also published on Idealog Magazine 

idealog

IRGO unConference Report

Report on the inaugural Internet Research Group of Otago (IRGO) unConference 23 and 24 November 2009.

The three questions posed in the lead up to this unconference were listed on http://irgo.otago.ac.nz/

Centre for Innovation, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

  1. what might be possible for the future internet of the region?
  2. what will citizens want from the internet in the future (two, five, ten years ahead)?
  3. what potential internet problems or issues will we have to navigate in the immediate future?

These questions were addressed by all of the panel discussions throughout the two days.

This forum was successful in its approach to address these questions but raised more questions than answers, which will require an ongoing collaborative approach to develop new thinking and strategies to address the issues raised.

These are my bullet points from the Internet Research Group of Otago (IRGO) unConference this week.

Work

  • Mobility of work, the Internet is everywhere with, generally, high accessibility.
  • Technology is available to enable an “office anywhere” approach.
  • Issues could include
    • A reduction in the control of the worker and the worker’s environment.
    • Appropriateness of this approach to industry type.
    • Speed and quality of broadband.
    • Productivity may be affected (positively and negatively).
    • Acceptance of this approach is required by business community.
    • Social interactive nature of the work place is potentially missing.
    • Concept of the “digital nomad”

Content

  • Quantity vs quality
  • Intellectual property issues
  • Copyright vs Creative Commons
  • Who has access to content and what rights do users have.
  • Moderation of content vs self-regulation.
  • Is it quality or just share-able

Social Media (reasons for…)

  • Change management discourse.
  • Community generated content.
  • Client feedback
  • Crowd sourcing of publicity/marketing/information
  • Collaboration
  • Brokering services
  • New client/peer interaction model
  • Networking online and face to face

New Revenue Models

  • Traditional sales diminishing online.
  • Value of digital content is “nil” as it can be an unlimited supply.
  • Move to pay for service rather than pay for content model.

Ethics

  • Freedom of speech vs control of content
  • What is the definition of harm?
  • Posting of anonymous content, including offensive, harmful or untrue content and comments.
  • Who or what jurisdiction has control of what is “allowed” on the Internet.

Issues of Accessibility

  • Quality of broadband in New Zealand is poor.
  • Availability of Wifi or wireless ISP.
  • Business exposure to the Internet.
  • Acceptance of business that there is value in use of Internet.

Archiving

  • Permanence and durable accessibility of data is an issue in long-term electronic storage.
  • Technology changes will always need to be backwardly compatible. (Floppy disks used to be used as back up but who has a drive to access data now)
  • Usability of back-up systems is vital
  • The need for offsite and multiple storage options required for back up.
  • Standardisation and meaningful file systems required
  • What data is required to be backed up?
  • What is worth keeping?
  • The archivist has a vital role
  • How to back up institutional knowledge.

The Future

  • Much more development in telecommunication and automation using connective technologies.
  • Dependent on quality and reliability of telecommunication networks whether wired/fibre or wireless.
  • Cost to implement is an issue.

In conclusion I would congratulate IRGO in this its first unConference and look forward to the ongoing information that will be developed as a result of this forum.

Please visit http://irgo.otago.ac.nz/ for more information.

Paul S Allen aka paulusthebrit

http://twitter.com/paulusthebrit
http://thewaterside.tumblr.com

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