The future of ICT?

January 19, 2013

Industrial work clearly determined the tasks that had to be done. The machine and the ways to work with the machine were given. People served the machine. Workers did not need to be concerned and feel responsible for the results. They just did what they were told.

Knowledge work is very different. The first thing for a knowledge worker is to try to answer these questions:  What am I here for? What is my responsibility? What should I achieve? What should I do next? Key questions for a knowledge worker have to do with how to do things and what tools to use. This time, the machines, the tools, need to serve the worker. It is, in fact, a change from only following instructions to also writing the instructions.

Historians claim that the invention of the printing press led to a society of readers, not a society of writers despite the huge potential of the new technology. Access to printing presses was a much, much harder and more expensive thing than access to books. Broadcasting systems such as radio and television continued the same pattern. People were not active producers, but passive receivers.

Computer literacy or the idea of being a digital native still often follow the same model. In practice it means the capability to use the given tools of a modern workplace – or a modern home. But literacy to just use, to be the consumer of, the technologies and the programs is not what we need. The perspective of the consumer/user was the perspective of the industrial age. Success meant learning how to behave in the way the machine needed you to behave.

That should not be the goal today.

As a result of Internet-based ICT we have learned how to speak and how to listen; we have learned how to write and how to read. But in the digital world, it is not enough if we know how to use the programs, if we don’t know how to make them.

ICTWe are typically always one step behind what technology can offer. We can now participate actively through tweets, status updates and profile pages, but the thing to remember is that somebody else has made the programs that make it possible. And often the real goal of that somebody is to create a new advertising model. Nothing wrong with that.

The underlying capability of the knowledge era is programming, not reading or writing. It is a change from using things to making things. Creating things for yourself and sharing them.

I have met many people who think that programming is a kind of a modern version of a working-class skill. It can well be outsourced to some far-away, poor nation while we here do higher value things. Nothing could be further from the truth, more wrong, and more dangerous for us. Today the code is the main domain of creativity and innovations. It is a new language. Writing code is the number one high leverage activity in a creative, digital society.

The primary capability of the knowledge era is not using computers, but programming computers. It is not using software, but writing software.

Mitch Resnick talks about the new challenge: “After people have learned to read they can read to learn. And after people have learned to code, they can code to learn.”

It is time for a human response to technology.


Thank you Mika Okkola

More on the subject: On software productivity. The Finnish ICT 2015 report. How to start learning programming. Codecademy. Linda Liukas. The Estonian approach. On GitHub. On data democracy.

6 Responses to “The future of ICT?”

  1. “The capacity to build and not only to talk about building.” Linus Torvalds is talking eloquently about being a buildder:

  2. eskokilpi Says:

    Yes, thank you Kim!

  3. Quite right: coding is not making “machines” but an extension of language and communication. Thank you, very important insight

  4. Sharma Says:

    Nothing could be more global than ICT. So, for a global company country of the work does not really matters, but the output matters as output is something which generates revenue and helps a company to grow and survive. So, future is with the talent which is currently not visible from a company like Nokia. I doubt the wisdom of people in management if they are throwing away their core work, but there are companies in the world who never had their own production teams other than sales team e.g. Sun Solaris.

    when it comes to ICT is means knowledge, skills and speaking in a computer language. So, poor country that you mentioned has the required knowledge, skills and are selling a unique business model which no other country can think of to help any customer in the world to concentrate on their core business. Look at the TATA group and the growth of TCS and its customers.

    ICT is changing faster than ever before. ICT is about competition, a global competition where everyone is in. We need a different kind of environment for the new generation of innovation where customers are global and needs are unique. Understanding the ecosystem better is the key to success.

  5. Sharma Says:

    with all due respect,Kindly look at the strengths of poor country e.g. who has its own satellite launch vehicle and helping many countries to launch their satellites.

  6. Mark Harmer Says:

    Very good points. Of course, we can now bypass this because there are so many apps now that allow us to post things (WordPress included!) and it liberates everyone. I’ve noticed increasingly compared with the early days, when you had to hard-code websites, that “sharing” (ie reposting / linking to others’ content) has also become very easy. It’s still unusual and refreshing to find people who are actually creating stuff for themselves, including code but also anything else (whole sites, music, images, video etc etc). For me that’s the thing that’s been so wonderful about the internet – that anyone can create and make their stuff known. Thanks to that, my band has played in venues abroad, and I have had my own performances music included in publications internationally. That wouldn’t have happened without the original creativity and without the means of making it available (and findable) online.

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