The IT industry in its rush to bring
faster, better and "more robust"
product to market has ignored the impact
of the so-called "data divide"
where one group of people is considered
"IT-aware" and the other group
is considered "not aware".
This "not aware" group essentially
comprises the public at large including
professionals in many fields who have
had little or no exposure to IT in the
course of their careers and home life.
Many of us may consider this almost unheard
of. Some may even consider the phenomenon
of "IT-unaware" people as "not
possible". After all, we are reading
this article on an Internet-capable device
and most of this group would probably
consider doing without their PC or laptop
and/or PDA a parlous state of affairs.
Yet this "data divide" is now
having such an effect that it is causing
considerable suffering in society and
a noticeable loss to the economy.
Consider first the inter-personal side
of the human dimension. How tolerant are
you when attempting to explain how some
of your information reaches its destination
when speaking to an IT illiterate person
(a sadly pejorative term)? How tolerant
are you when trying to explain to this
same person the benefits of research on
the Internet as an almost
limitless repository of information?
In most such cases, one party has the
appearance of an ardent zealot of almost
messianic proportions and the other party
has a glazed look whilst muttering something
about needing to immediately talk to someone
else or needing to refresh their beverage.
All this angst occurs at just the interpersonal
level. What cost is this discomfort (to
the individuals concerned and society
per se) including the inevitable distancing
of persons whenever the subject of IT
raises itself - usually instigated by
Sadly, most of us who are attuned - albeit
reluctantly - to today's demanding work
and social norms will dismiss this aspect
of "the divide" as trivial and
"passing" but I suggest otherwise.
Further study should not only continue
to highlight but also quantify the cost
to society of this.
Second, consider the impact of IT on
all persons throughout their daily lives.
That is, does anyone really care what
impact IT has on the human soul or spirit
considering that humans are exposed to
some aspect of IT almost every minute
of every day? Whether in the kitchen,
commuting to work, or at work, microchips
and IT control our day.
Again, this aspect of our tech-riddled
"brave new world" is usually
trivialised by the assumption that this
is now the norm. How good for us is this
History has shown us that a head-long
and hasty dash down one path without suitable
planning can have its negative consequences
e.g. colonialisation, the early parts
of the industrial revolution, the highly
questionable benefits of "the nuclear
age", allowing pharmaceutical companies
to patent certain parts (if not all) of
genome sequencing and, no doubt, more
At the risk of inviting mutterings such
as "it has ever been thus" referencing
the human condition and its insistence
on progress via the painful method of
trial-and-error, if there was ever a time
for justifiable interdiction, it is now.
In this information age the majority of
our working day is preoccupied with data
(information) manipulation as the mechanism
for getting things done.
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