HOW DO WE contend with the sheer volume of digital options available on the Internet? No matter in what field we work – business, education, training – everywhere we look, there are new software applications for us to use, whether this is for a computer, mobile phone or iPad.
Take a recent experience of mine. I was looking for chutney recipes. After a search, I found the BBC Good Food guide. There were many chutney recipes available. Using my iPad, I selected one that looked interesting. I decided to send this choice to my home computer for future reference. Like a lot of good websites, the page offered a ‘Share’ option. This feature listed 334 applications that I could use to share this information with others.
Looking at the list, I saw that I was familiar with maybe a dozen or so. I’m in the business of Internet services, yet I only knew 12 out of the 334 available! Are the other 322 useful? Perhaps amongst them there is a very powerful tool that I’m not using or could be using in my work. Other than trawling through the whole 300 or so options, how could I know?
I’ve always been of the opinion that whether it is an individual or an organisation, their engagement to technology can be categorised as follows:
- 20% early adopters. They use the technology actively and engage with new innovations, test them out, see whether they have a good fit with their own business model or purposes. To do this, they need to be agile organisations with very accommodating and supportive IT division. They are not averse to cloud solutions, and don’t feel threatened by perceived security and privacy threats.
- 60% middling. They generally adopt new technologies as part of an annual IT business plan. These are generally large organisations. Anything not included in the plan is not implemented.
At the top end of this group, the IT division allows individual workers to install Cloud packages on their own computers, and perhaps share these with others in the organisation outside the IT plan. But licensed software is always implemented across the organisation, so it is slow in adopting new versions. They are likely to be using, for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, even though Microsoft has advised that new versions be installed. They are generally loathe to adopt freely available software, although Firefoxmay be considered and centrally installed.
At the bottom end of this group, individual computers desktops are locked so individuals cannot install any external software and links to any websites have to be requested from the IT division. (I recently came across a TAFE College in Queensland that had this policy.) They have a very dominating IT division that acts as the gatekeeper. New software integration is very slow. For them, technology has to be centralised (controlled). This attitude stems from a basic knowledge issue; the IT personnel most likely have been Microsoft-trained, and feel threatened by the influx of innovative technologies outside this ambit.
- 20% resisters. These are people / organisations that actively resist any technology innovation. They most likely use it to some degree, but are loathe to move forward, and are basically happy with the level they currently use.This group may not have the resources or knowledge or money to move forward.
So in this scenario, it’s the first group that will have the knowledge and experience to share with the other groups those technologies and applications that are useful. They are in effect the brokers of the digital future, who are conducting applied research on behalf others who wish / need to transition into this space.
In this context, it’s impossible for one person to be an expert in all of this. It requires a collective mind; a group of experts who are keen to share their experiences in the use of these technologies and applications in different modes. It requires research to investigate and keep up with the innovations.
There are organisations such Binary Blue that do this. They investigate the needs of the organisation and then conduct intensive research to recommend digital technology solutions that will assist the organisation meet their business requirements.
Or there are groups such as ProfHacker in the US, that routinely look at what is available for tertiary levels of education.
For the person in a middling organisation, it requires arguing with management (IT) for freedom to download software to desktops, proper supportive IT and more internal and robust wireless connectivity.