Communicating change

Communicating change

The ways in which we can contact each other continue to grow and business/social boundaries are blurring

For most of us, technology is changing the way we work and play. But some recent surveys show that change is happening at vastly varying rates in different sections of our society.

The first was an IDC study, commissioned by Nortel, of 2400 workers across 17 countries that classified 16 per cent as 'hyper-connected'. This term was defined as applying to people that use a minimum of seven devices for work and personal access plus at least nine applications like Instant Messaging, Web conferencing and social networks.

A further 36 per cent were 'increasingly connected' because they use a minimum of four devices and six or more applications. With these workers expected to add more devices and applications, IDC predicted the 'hyper-connected' category will grow by 40 per cent during the next five years. This trend will create management headaches for those servicing the needs of a mobile workforce while ensuring this connectivity is productive.

Many organisations are struggling to cope with this growth in communication methods - the survey suggests finance and IT users are most dissatisfied with how their companies manage multiple communication sources. More than 25 per cent of respondents said corporate systems were slow and unreliable.

If the growth in communication methods wasn't difficult enough, even the classification of 'productive' communications is subject to constant change. For example, a separate survey from Nielsen Mobile estimated that 500,000 mobile users in the UK have accessed Facebook from their handsets. The vast majority of them are using it exclusively to communicate with friends at the moment but, as Generation Y makes its way up the management chain, social networking applications will increasingly be adopted as business tools.

Instant Messaging is already a long way along that acceptance curve - some people still use it inappropriately at work but for many it has become an important collaborative tool. More than half of respondents in the IDC survey said they use instant and text messaging for business communication. More than one in three people surveyed use social networks and online communities such as blogs, wikis and forums.

This might seem like a brave new world of communications but, for some people, the transformation might as well be playing out on Planet Zog. Another recent survey, this time from Park Associates, estimated that 20 million households in the US (or about 18 per cent) are disconnected from the Internet and have never sent an email. Almost one in three had never used a computer to create a document.

For the richest country in the world, these are large numbers that serve as a timely reminder that those driving technology adoption still have a long way to travel before they reach the back of the bus. Age plays a significant role in the digital divide today, half of the respondents who said they'd never used email were over 65, but governments around the world have a big job ahead of them to close the gap.

Brian Corrigan is the editorial director of ARN.

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