The opening keynote of the day was Prof SV Raghavan hwo spoke on the National Knowledge Network of India, an instrument of social change. I learned a lot about India and what is happening there. For one the Indian population has tripled since 1960, GDP more than doubled between 2000 and 2008. Certainly they do something right.
Raghavan claims that their LPG policies are responsible, i.e. Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. The obvious question to ask is how this growth reaches the larger population. India appears to have enthusiasm in there people! Given that fact they focus a lot on EDUCATION and HEALTH. The inherent premise is that an educated nation is a creative nation, and a healthy nation is a productive nation…! (Maybe the South African government should take some tips!?) The emphasis is noticable by looking at the increase of universities from 27 in 1950/1 to 368 in 2006/7; primary schools over the same period of time increased from 209671 to 784852!
India sees the fiber-ing and wireless-ing the country as the means of achieving inclusive growth. The National Knowledge Network (NKN) became the medium to integrate all aspects of solution under a single banner. Synergy was the mantra, bringing together Education, Health and Agriculture. The size and technical sophistication of the NKN is impressive indeed. However, what is even more impressive is that the political will to create the NKN exist.
The final keynote of the conference was Prof Penny Sanderson who spoke about envisioning work with technology. She started with a 1996 quote from Arnie Lund: “If technology doesn’t work for people, then it doesn’t work”. Penny identified three results of technology not being effective: people finish the design themselves, organizational pathologies arise, and unintended consequences.
The organizational pathologies was particularly informative to me; she explained it in terms of a demand-control model. Roughly it states that “bad” things happen depending on two factors: the decision latitude and the psychological demands. Having high psychological demands with little decision latitude, i.e. demanding work without autonomy leads to the worst results.
The big question is how to know beforehand what the result will be… This is the envisionment problem. Prof Sanderson identified three major stages in terms of the design discretion allowable as well as the time approaching roll-out.
- When roll-out is still far decision discretion is high: the prospective stage
- As roll-out comes closer design discretion becomes lower: the formative stage, and
- when roll-out is close, design discretion is very low: the summative stage
Spread over these stages different types of techniques get used, ranging from documents, Models, walkthroughs, simulations to prototypes. To envision the work at different stage requires different techniques. however four ways of modeling needs to work together:
- normative methods describe what should work and often employ business analysis techniques
- descriptive methods describe what does work and use field research methods
- formative methods describe what could work through analyzing various options
- projective methods describe what will work by developing new methods by combining lessons learned.
In short Prof Sanderson’s lecture showed that we should apply our minds for how work will happen when developing technology-oriented solutions. As information technology community we should strive to make the technology work for people!