Information Sharing for the iPod generation
Vega considers what information sharing lessons can be learned
from the iPod generation.
The ‘iPod generation’, or as the US would describe it, the
’Facebook generation’ has been born into the world where ICT
technology is second nature. Twitter, Flicker, Facebook, wikis, and
other such online communities are standard tools in the way they
live their lives. This is how they share
information and gain knowledge, much as the mobile or e-mail
was for the generation before. They have never held or even seen a
gramophone record; they expect not only music, but all media-based
entertainment to be available to download in an instant; they see
nothing funny in having ‘friends’ who they may never have met
face-to-face; and when they want their opinions heard, they can set
up an international protest group in minutes.
So why is understanding the mindset of this generation so
important, and why is the emergence of new ‘social tools’ likely to
have such an impact on the business community? Surely we are
talking here purely about how people live their lives outside of
A paradigm shift
Well, in most cases, this social group is the engine room of
business, and they are becoming frustrated because they think they
could be doing it better, quicker and cheaper if only they had the
We are therefore on the edge of an epoch – a paradigm shift in
the way we as the business community understand and use technology.
A paradigm shift though implies a ‘point in time’, and it is
probably more correct that over the past decade we have been going
through a technology paradigm evolution.
Ultimately, we can identify that a ‘shift’ has happened, in the
technology we use and in the expectation of those who use it. But
we have not seen such a shift in the culture of how we employ the
technology, in or in the way we procure it; it can still take years
to implement new IT via the traditional approach.
Similarly, the principles of information security have had to
evolve to enable information to be shared securely. One example of
where this is already happening, is in the US’s Office of the
Director of National Intelligence, which has evolved the security
principles of Web 2.0 technology and developed them to highest
security ranking. This has enabled information sharing of the most
sensitive material amongst a distributed yet trusted community of
So, while the technology has experienced a paradigm evolution,
the way we use and procure it now requires a paradigm shift.
Failure to embrace social media
Socitm’s report about the use of social media tools such as
Twitter and Facebook within local government and related services
(published in January 2010), said that public sector heads of IT
should be “taking the lead in encouraging councils to embrace
social media and not be party to moves to block staff from using
these important new tools for business.” It also warned that “many
were failing to see the potential applications within their
respective organisations”, adding that “failure to engage with the
trend is tantamount to ignoring the telephone at the end of the
It’s my belief that the classification of these tools as
‘social’ rather than ‘business’ leads to the conclusion by some
that using these media is time wasting. It’s this lack of
understanding by those procuring the technology and setting the ICT
strategy, that leads to an unwillingness to consider ways to
exploit the intellectual talent that they are employing.
Share and discover
Decision makers must consider the impact this technology will
have on business processes, and how value can be gained from them.
Take Twitter, for example. Four years ago, if asked to write the
requirement for a solution to allow individuals to post reports on
an event as they were happening, we would not have written the
requirement for Twitter. Yet already it is a tool used in various
forward thinking organisations and brands as a way to ‘engage’ with
society. And when you bring the technology into the work place, it
could be used to get business-relevant information to interested
consumers in real-time.
The evolution began with the emergence of the internet and
mobile computing, but has really accelerated through the
availability of discovery tools such as Google. Pre-Google, one had
to know where to look, in order to find the required information.
Now though, with Google and other search engines indexing billions
of web pages, consumers can discover just about anything they want
on the web. This thirst for information has consequently driven
organisations to publish greater volumes of it online for people to
Applying these developments to the iPod generation, its members
expect to see the tools with which they have used to develop their
social networks to be available to them to build their business
Embracing this approach is non-negotiable. In a very short space
of time, we have already been shown what is possible by using
social media tools – from getting Rage Against The Machine to
number one, to identifying and saving trapped people in the rubble
of the Haitian earthquake.
Therefore, as social media continues to permeate every aspect of
our personal and business lives – driven by the iPod generation –
it is incumbent upon business to recognise its value, embrace it,
and ensure information sharing measures
are considered and implemented appropriately, without compromising
the fluid ethos at the very heart of this technology.
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