Social Business: Much more than Digital Experience and Social Networks

It’s CeBIT time again.

Germany’s largest IT fair opens on March 10, 2014 for five days. The show runs Monday to Friday, so no weekend day included. One may think. that this is a clear signal about the target audience: “We welcome Professional visitos, but we are not keen to see thre gift grabbing general public on our holy fairground”.

Cnsequently, there is no main end-user oriented theme for the show this time. “New Perspectives in IT Business”, – that’s the only high level slogan. As main industry trends, the CeBIT web site lists Datability, Big Data, Cloud, Mobile and Social Business –no surprise there at all. Pretty much business as usual at first glance. Nobody really expects a big-bang product launch like in the good old days of the 90’s For example, I remember CeBIT 1994 as the exhibition of multimedia and sound cards… we all returned home almost deaf after the show and end-users and the general public made up a big part of the audience.

Today though, looking at global technology trends as a whole, the absence of the “IT consumer” might be to “protect” them from the realisation that they are seeen as an exchangeable element, and not as an individual human being anymore. Although at first glance, the digital world seems to make our life more and more personal and individual,  in reality we are all constantly analyzed, scrutinized, categorized and evaluated upon our digital footprint or behavioural patterns.

The “Internet of Things” for sure brings a lot of promise regarding productivity and sustainability. On the other hand there is a lot of risk that people may become more and more dependent and remote-controlled. The more we allow systems and artificial intelligence to control our everyday life, the hareder we will find it to manage on our own those aspects of life that can’t bes upported by machines.

The IT industry has to ask itself the question, whether the “features” we present, really bring value to people’s lives. “Value”, here defined as quality of life and not just as simply as ease and comfort. Instead of “self-restocking online fridges”, we should think about how technology can help us in education, in health-care, the protection of the environment or even in having children and offering them perspectives for an enjoyable life. All this needs to happen with humanity and real social values being always in the centre.

I don’t think that the end-user got excluded from CeBIT to protect them from the realisation that they are seen as an anonymous herd to be manipulated. I truly believe that the organisers  intend to provide a real professional forum, which allows us as the specialists to discuss what’s really needed, what is just a nice-to-have and which technological possibilities shouldn’t be a goal simply because they are possible. 

When we as IT experts talk about the “social business”, we have to constantly remind ourselves, that we have assumed accountability for the progress of our society, our values, our culture and even the civil rights. Let’s continue to innovate responsibly. I am looking forward to CeBIT.

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