Stumbling blocks on the path to Digital Society

The user interface is crucial and it cannot be a second thought... Credit: Scott Adams. 2001 United Feature Syndicate, Inc

So, in the last post I claimed we have good technology, and infrastructure, to move into the Digital Society and leveraging the Data Economy. 

However, I see two major stumbling blocks on the way:  making use of technology enablers and understanding their implication.

For the former one could say it is just a matter of time. People will learn. This is what has happened so far, hasn’t it? 

At the same time we should recognize that the speed of adoption/learning has been quite different in different Countries and within a Country in different communities.  And these differences result in gaps, competitive gaps and social gaps.
 Youngsters seems to have a knack for novelty, technology evolution comes natural to them. For other parts of the population the learning process is longer and for other is just impossible. Given the faster pace of innovation the gaps are increasing, rather than decreasing.

Technology is, and should remain, under the hood. We access via interfaces and the seamless they are the better. However, interfaces are made of (ways of) interactions, like voice, touch, clicks, and of procedures. More and more we see that procedures are rooted in the past and this makes the whole complicated, sometimes resulting in added cost, burden and no benefit.

Take the situation in my region, Piedmont. We have moved as of the beginning of 2015 to a digital prescription. The prescription is being sent electronically from your doctor to the pharmacy. Sounds good, right.  As a matter of fact when you see your doctor she will type on her computer the prescription and a printer will spew out the prescription on a sheet of paper. You get that sheet and you go to the nearest pharmacy that will give you the pills. They will remove the sticky tags from the pill box and put it on the prescription sheet. Actually, the reason for printing carrying and handing over the prescription sheet to the pharmacist is to allow the sticking of the pill’s tag to record the sale!

By digitalizing the prescription we haven’t gained anything and we have add the cost of the computer infrastructure to the process. Unless the process is changed there won’t be any benefit, just cost.

Designing a seamless interface and re-engineering the processes are crucial to the adoption of technology enablers. 

If we start our design with the goal of having the citizen using the service through a smartphone we are forced to “invent” a minimalistic process that can work on a constrained display size and that will in turns lead to simplified interactions. Also, the design should be tailored to the average citizen, not to the thumb generation….

Can we do that? I am pretty sure that it is possible.  In addition, using a smart phone as the access point should also strengthen the authentication, particularly as cell phones are embedding biometric identification (not just fingerprinting, also image recognition, heart beat analyses and so on).

I’ll take up the second stumbling block in the next post.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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