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Posts Tagged ‘generational divide’

The Riyadh Declaration on Digital Health articulated seven priorities and nine recommendations to be adopted by the health community. Even though Covid-19 has been an accelerator of the adoption of ICT tools applied to the health sector, a deficit in the widespread adoption of digital tools to foster a better healthcare persists.

Of course, out of the 7+9 we could choose many culprits for the situation. But to me there are two recommendations that are the core of the problem:

Number 6: Cultivate a health and care workforce with the knowledge, skills, and training in data and digital technologies required to address current and future public health challenges

Number 8: Develop digital personal tools and services to support comprehensive health programmes (in disease prevention, testing, management, and vaccination) globally

Both recommendations focus on people; one on the healthcare professional, the other on the citizen. Both groups are eHealth users, and both groups are normally forgotten by the developer. The basic problem is the existence of a generation gap. Most ICT developers are millennials, the kind of person who, like somebody I was with yesterday, thinks that a 40-year-old person is “old”. They are not willing to pay attention to the reality of demographics. If they invested some minutes to the study of today’s demographics, they would discover that one third of healthcare workers are over 50, and that one fifth of the EU-27 population is over 65 (see Training for ICTs).

The point is that developers should have users in mind. I know that, at least in EU funded projects, it is a requirement to take end-users into the equation. And I know that efforts are made by the developing consortia to involve them. But the problem exists, and it exists because the process of getting an ICT application into the market starts with the ICT developer dreaming of a solution to a problem that the developer has identified, and then looking for an end user that fits the dream.

The correct process should have been, and very seldom is, for the end user to dream about solving his or her problem, and then identify the ICT developer that fulfils the dream. As you can see, the end user should be the driver of the process, not the back-seat passenger in the development vehicle. Acting this way will make it easier for ICT to reach its true potential.

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If you come across anybody who has not heard of Internet of Things (IoT) be careful, the person surely comes from another planet. IoT is at the centre of any ICT research. Everybody is developing devices, claiming that these will interconnect to anything you already have or will have.

And yet, at home we still have several remote controls for our smart TV, for recording devices, and for the all present black box that allows us to enjoy hours of the most degrading TV shows. Of course, the sound system runs under another completely different set of remote controls: for the CD player, the tuner, not to mention the necessary turntable that we have brought to life again after having been convinced that the sound is a lot more natural on an analogic record than in a digitalized CD.

IoT’s promise is that all our gadgets will be interconnected inside our homes and even with the exterior. A different problem is whether I really want my fridge to send messages to my grocery store to replace that uneatable marmalade that my daughter in law gave me and that I have been struggling to finish for the past two months.

Although the promise is great, reality strikes back. As of today, only 6% of American households have a smart-home device, and 72% of Britons have no plans to adopt smart-home technology in the near future (The Economist 11.06.2016). Of course it does not help that some of the smart gadgets like the Samsung´s smart fridge goes for almost $ 6,000.

IoT marketing is probably missing the point, as has been the case in many new ICT developments. Putting the focus on the ICT novelty will not attract people. Unless the smart-home gadget solves a real problem, it is difficult to convince people to adapt it. Technology is available today for doing almost anything that anybody can think of. The problem is the generational divide. Young people full of energy devise new things that are meant for older people maybe two or even three generations apart. Have they asked those people what they really need? Have they participated in every phase of the development?

Just as a marker, go to the pictures of any of the ICT gatherings in the world and try to spot anybody older than 65. Even those gatherings especially dedicated to ageing, like the yearly AAL Forum which I have attended many years, are packed with young people full of ideas that will be tested on older people just because the rules say so, not really because they feel like it.

And then we come to the pure ICT problem of interconnectivity. It is essential to develop a common standard to allow seamless connectivity among gadgets from different makers. From what I know, that is being done more or less for industrial IoT, but something similar for the domestic domain is lacking.

In all, my bet is that IoT as something integrated in everyday life is a long way off. Only a concerted effort to develop an overall global standardisation, coupled with real intergeneration symbiosis, will bring forward the realization of the home IoT.

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