Sunday, March 29, 2015

Does ICT need a Martin Luther?

Editing some online articles recently I read a report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies which found that older Australians were not the only ones to have difficulty in coming to terms with the information and communication technology (ICT) revolution.

The report found that one in 10 of the under 35s it surveyed also felt they were being left behind by fast-moving advances in the sector.

Commenting on the findings, the Institute’s Assistant Director (Research), Ruth Weston said the volume of information had increased almost beyond comprehension.

“If even these comparatively young Australians feel left behind, that makes the future seem daunting,” Ms Weston said.

Co-author of the paper, Lixia Qu said the increasing reliance on ICT developments to deliver services could make it harder for people of all ages, particularly if it signals the end or near-end of face-to-face services.

The very next story I found, dealing with IT governance, rather proved the Institute’s point. It contained the following paragraph.

In recognition of the important role Australia plays in the new International Standard for IT governance, Standards Australia runs the secretariat of Sub-Committee 40 of the Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1) of ISO and IEC, JTC1/SC 40 IT Service Management and IT Governance, which was responsible for producing the publication.”

This gobbledegook is obviously quite intelligible to those who work in the field, but I would suggest a large proportion of the population would find it meaningless.

We are fast developing a technological elite to whom the saying, attributed to 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas, could be applied: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.” 

Indeed the growing jargon being produced by ICT professionals is beginning to sound as incomprehensible as the Latin Mass in cathedrals and churches would have sounded to the largely illiterate congregations of Aquinas’ day.

Like those congregations, who would have learnt a few words and phrases parrot-fashion and would know when to say “amen”, those uninitiated in the inner circles of ICT pick up a few terms and processes essential for their day-to-day lives, while leaving more complicated matters to be interpreted by the high priests from the Help Desk.

What we are seeing is definitely not the original promise of ICT to make lives universally easier. The Institute of Family Studies report has found that even some of those who would have been familiar with earlier computers and laptops feel overwhelmed by the pace of developments since.

So what hope for my generation who know Bluetooth better as the Old Norse King of Denmark than anything to do with wireless technology?

Obviously there is no going back, but my fear is that the headlong rush to ever-new concepts (already the Cloud is sooo last decade) is going to produce a substantial proportion of the population frustrated and angry at its inability to comprehend fast-changing and increasingly more complicated technology.

Perhaps ICT needs a Martin Luther to bring things back to basics.





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