When embarking on the inaugural blog for the newly created Centre for Information Management (launched 1st August 2013), I wanted to reflect on how the digital age plays a pivotal role in our lives as we hurtle along the digital highway. I also wanted to reflect on how it compares to preceding decades and what lessons could be learnt from previous generations.
The speed of life seems greater than ever. Nowadays we are aided by the digital age, where the latest gadgets and gizmos keep us in touch with what is going on 24/7. Thanks to this, we are probably the best kept informed generation compared to previous ones. However, with digital technology there is a continuous battle to try and harness it and make it work for us rather than dictating our daily lives as we see so often. With so much data and information being generated – for example, every 60 seconds, there is 100 hours of Youtube video uploaded, 98k tweets sent, 168 million emails sent – we also face the battle of what to do with all this information.
The genetics of the human race seem to dictate that for the most of us, we must find a logical pattern and way of utilising this vast volume of digital media – the burning desire to get the system to fit our needs, the harnessing of technology. Another way of looking at it is the volume of information could just be viewed as a form of art, one which we could dip in and out of to get our technological fix, rather than worrying about not getting the most from the potential pot of information gold.
When I take my old Austin A30 ‘Alice’ out for a drive the speed of life slows down rapidly. Many people smile as they see it go by, bringing back memories for some and for the younger generation providing intrigue. Alice normally builds up a queue of traffic behind her with the majority accepting the slower speed and willing to take timeout – a welcome excuse to slow the pace of life down. Most of us look upon the digital age as something we have never seen before, but if we look back at history there were revolutions along the way that did increase the speed of life: from horse and cart to the ever-increasing speed of cars; from cars to propeller planes to jet planes.
Thanks to technology and clever marketing we’ve turned into a ‘want’ society rather than thinking about the ‘need’. A good example is the tablet market, where suppliers try and fit more and more gizmos onto a device hoping the consumer will figure out how to best utilise them and give them a competitive edge. However, in the business world there is no room for buying on a whim – reality must strike; and every investment into an information system should be carefully thought through to justify the benefits of the investment. In particular, what specifically should it do; how it should draw valuable links between unconnected information; what value added can a business give to a system to ensure they are the best in the market. With good tools and techniques this is relatively simple to achieve (as we have demonstrated with the successful selection and implementation of Mobile Data Terminals into Leicestershire Police to create a more agile Police force: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/view/spring-summer-2011/articles/helping-police/).
There is a growing need to better understand how technology affects our lives to ensure technology is working for us. For example, it takes a third longer to complete a task if we are interrupted by email. Another example is you are more likely to be stressed if you do not file your emails away into folders.
Information systems can have many complex elements and with the help of general crowd-sourcing feedback (like tablet suppliers do) and academic research, we can continue to refine the technology to better fit into our daily digital diet so we can take back control and enjoy the experience of riding on the digital highway.
Professor Thomas Jackson
Director of the Centre for Information Management