On quiet news days, opinion pieces about the perils of technology are popular news fodder. Accompanied by pictures of teens gazing at screens as ‘proof’, the articles tend to follow a similar path to the inevitable conclusion: modern technology is harming us. But technology vendors are answering back, aiming to forge a reputation as community builders. So, how do we manage technology in a way that enhances our lives while avoiding any pitfalls?
Social behaviour gets the most attention. Are we spending too much time staring at screens instead of participating in sport, socialising, or connecting with our families? We are led to believe we are breeding a generation of vacant, socially incompetent couch potatoes but is this really true?
The reality is different. Far from making us less active, technology is increasingly used to support healthy lifestyles. An impressive 87% of Australians over 15 years old are participants in sports and fitness-related activities, with 39% of them using technology as part of the experience1. From the local gym to Little Athletics, organisations are using technology to forge stronger relationships with their members.
The way we communicate is certainly changing, but we’d argue this is (mostly) a benefit. Far-away grandparents are reading bedtime stories to their grandchildren via Skype. Away from the shock headlines, teens are likely to be supporting their peers and bringing a new dimension to friendships. 68%2 of teenagers say that social media helps them to feel more supported during difficult times, although like any social setting, it is up to parents to set some rules and boundaries.
Technology vendors are recognising their role in bringing people together. This was highlighted by Apple’s renaming of its stores as ‘town squares’, places of community, where people visit for an experience.
Other vendors are focusing on togetherness too. A growing range of convertible devices like HP’s x360 notebook are designed for portability and sharing, whether a little league game plan or a customer presentation. Our device experts say the blurring of tablet and laptop form factors is the perfect complement to the real-time social and business collaboration wave.
It is in collaboration software that we perhaps see the greatest developments. Integrating the best of social media-style interaction with smart devices such as interactive whiteboards and conferencing facilities is one of the ways our collaboration experts are helping our customers build a new kind of workplace community. Participants from around Australia and the world work as though they were in the same room. A technical specialist can draw a diagram on a smart board in Boston that is then edited by a collaborator staying home with a sick child in Perth before it is redesigned into marketing material by a graphic designer in Auckland – all in real time.
A similar trend is happening among families. Yes, the typical teenage girl may spend a little too much time on Instagram, but she may also Skype her grandmother in Ireland and share her experiences at school camp – edited of course – with her mother, submit homework to her teacher and collaborate with friends on a project.
The boundaries between personal and business apps are blurring for technology natives as they prepare to thrive in a digital world. Businesses must be prepared for a new breed of tech-savvy employees, and provide an environment that stores and backs up application data very well. We’re working with vendors like HPE, who design storage solutions around this cultural shift, on the premise that it is far better to support the shift to cloud and app-dependent practices than to leave employees to take matters into their own hands.
While there is a small element of truth in the tabloid horror stories, they should also be taken with a grain of salt. Technology is a matter of balance, and we do as individuals need to step away from the screen and into the real world.
Technology can be a force for good when managed well, though. The current vendor focus on ‘town square’ style community building is the essence of digital transformation, designed to create memorable and meaningful interactions. As IT professionals in the most exciting time in our history, we can guide our organisations to promote human connections and collaboration. If we are to thrive in the digital economy, we must accept nothing less.
Time to make your organisation a centre of collaboration and connection? Contact our friendly Stott Hoare team today.