The human face of IT

Developers must design technology with psychological considerations in mind in order for them to become "socially acceptable", Chris Morris, Gartner Asia-Pacific's vice president and research group director, said yesterday.

"We really have to accept that IT just doesn't exist in a vacuum," Morris said. "It's got other factors in society -- cultural, economic, political."

He said developers paid no thought to the psychological impact their technology had on the "social fabric". "We've just got IT professionals building these programs who don't think about these factors and expect people to adapt and deploy."

While the cost of PCs as a medium and the cost of retaining systems has fallen in the last 10 years, Morris said this had not boosted internet use in Australia.

"Society is going to have a degree of 'push-back' towards technology. In 10 years, we're not going to be able to absorb as much change as technology can provide us," Morris said.

"The ability of society to accept this much change with 'zero latency' -- that is, minimum adoption time -- should be the key consideration of software developers," he said.

Morris cited Citibank's online mortgage facility as one socially unacceptable form of e-trading.

Citibank decided they needed to increase their competitiveness in the mortgage market by granting mortgages with speed, Morris said. It implemented an application integration system to perform online mortgage approvals.

However, "this was not the way to increase competitiveness", Morris said. Customers disliked the psychological impact of being "rushed" to make financial decisions online, he said. "They wanted to think about whether they wanted to actually borrow $200,000."

The rush to go online and take the human face out of mortgaging cost Citibank customer loyalty and a guaranteed future revenue source, Morris said.

Morris suggests businesses can bridge the education gap between users and professionals at the grassroots -- making customer relationships more "friendly", and investing time in educating end users.

Morris also shared a bleak outlook on the state of Australia's IT labour market. "We really don't have a strong indigenous IT industry," he said, labelling Australia a bit player on the world stage due to its small population.

He also lamented the local IT skills shortage: "A lot of good people are being sucked off to the US west coast or London where they can earn more money."

Moreover, IT as a profession "alienates" 50 per cent of Australia's population, according to Morris. Women comprise most of this group, followed by over-65s.

"(Women) are not choosing to work in IT because the first thing they think of is geeky boys," he said.

"In 10 to 15 years, 60 per cent of kids in kindergartens will have jobs we have never even thought of," Morris said. He believes the onus is now on schools to train students to be prepared for a brutally competitive workforce concentrated in IT jobs.

And Morris believes that women, due to their perceived "negotiation, facilitation and communications skills", will be instrumental in not only explaining technologies to future generations, but in creating a change in mindset among technophobes of all ages.

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