Dynamics of Information Technology and Cognitive Overload. By Bongs Lainjo

by Bongs Lainjo

The evolution of high technology in the last decade and a half has been quite impressive, revolutionary and inclusively available and accessible. Information technology which is complementary and useful in decision-making processes has in many cases been accepted as both necessary and sufficient by both institutions and the general population.

Many baby boomers I believe still vividly remember the good-old-days of punch cards/machines, teletypes and a proliferation of hardware including ubiquitous mainframes/minis like IBM/360, PDP/11/45, CDC, Wang etc. Any attempt to describe these computers to our GEN X and Y cohorts is like trying to convince them that those stored-away heavy boots that we used during the hard winters over three decades ago did indeed serve us very well. Now, running shoes will survive winters big time. As the adage goes, we live and we learn.

Since the early eighties when computer technology really started evolving, the rate of utilization globally has been anything but impressive. During this period, we have experienced a transformation of science fiction to non-fiction.

Laptops which were only introduced in the early eighties are now available and used significantly by both industry and homes. And with the advent of the twenty-first century, consumer needs have substantially exploded. In the meantime, suppliers and developers are faced with unenviable task of satisfying these needs. In the medical field for example High technology applications have dramatically increased in rates of utilization. These applications range from daily clinical use to mega research projects to drug manufacturing; a feat which just a few years ago was unimaginable. Similar advancement can be identified in banking, auto and airline industries.

The Google Glass project also serves as another example of technological advancement aimed at satisfying escalating consumer needs. In a related story presented in the NY times and based on information provided by people

familiar with the Google glasses said they would be using an Android-based operating system, and will include a small screen that will sit a few inches from someone’s eye. They will also have a 3G or 4G data connection and a number of sensors including motion and GPS. And according to Google employees, the paper further reports that “the glasses will have a low-resolution built-in camera that will be able to monitor the world in real time and overlay information about locations, surrounding buildings and friends who might be nearby. The glasses are not designed to be worn constantly — although Google expects some of the nerdiest users will wear them a lot — but will be more like smartphones, used when needed”.

Hence if current achievements and advancements are any indication, the best is yet to come. The 21st century may ultimately serve as a major turning point in technology advancement.

The advancements in cell phone technology with its dynamics that have rapidly evolved from 2G to 3G and now 4G, the saturation point remains any body’s guess. And all these advances continue to be driven by consumer and industrial needs. For example, tablets are beginning to take over from laptops. Even more significantly are the user’s preparedness to pay for any innovative strategy that makes live easy. Current user mobile phone applications (apps) range from survey data collection to social networks to shopping price comparing packages.  And of course it is needless to say that this quest for more information has resulted in a win-win situation. The onus remains on both suppliers and developers to continue satisfying these user needs.

The introduction and global availability of these mobile phones has also contributed in improving and serving consumer needs in both middle-income and developing countries. For example according to The World bank, in 1999, three per cent of Kenyan’s owned any type of phone. Today, the figure has dramatically progressed to 93 per cent. Is this a fluke? By no means; it is driven by user needs. One Kenyan service provider has even expanded its application – e-banking. The success of this application and level of acceptance by the general population in Kenya have been so compelling that similar APPS are currently being implemented in Tanzania and Afghanistan.

Deregulation and privatization by governments in these developing economies have also contributed in popularizing mobile phone access and use. In fact, it is also cheaper and more convenient to afford a cell phone in these countries than a land line.

While one tries to applaud and highlight these achievements, there are certain developments by governments to control access to universal information and with bureaucratic policies aimed at depriving consumers of their perpetual information needs. For example, cases of state censorship are well documented in some countries. And the magnitude is getting more and more exponential. Even here at home, last fall, the famous dead on arrival “online surveillance bill C30” or “anti-porn” bill that failed in our house of commons is a mind-boggling initiative that took every Canadian by surprise. A similar initiative to further regulate the internet by the US congress was another fiasco.

What does the future hold? The jury is still out while we continue to keep an eye on “big brother”.

Bongs Lainjo