Fun and Fear in IT in 2012

I have noticed two strongly opposing tendencies in IT at the moment.

At one extreme are those of us who find the new world of social media – the presence of 794 million people on Facebook, probably 500 million Twitter, and the fact that we can be connected any time and anywhere – exhilarating and liberating.

I can now do many things now that I dreamed of but never thought would be possible:

  • shuffle my music randomly or around themes (I used to struggle with CD changers!)
  • connect with other folk around the world who are interested in late Roman shield patterns or obscure locomotives of the New South Wales Government Railway
  • publish my thoughts on IT and on Roman history as real books
  • post my photos of “traces of past empires” on a site for anyone interested to see (rather than keep prints in shoe boxes!)
  • travel the World and still keep in touch with business
  • talk to relatives in Australia for free on Skype (think of the cost before!).

I love all of this and find it enriches my life.

At the same time, though, as an IT Director I am – like all CIOs – simply terrified by the way everything I love, listed  above, also breaks down the barriers and controls that protect our own personal and corporate data.

The flip side of the coin of openness is personality and financial theft.  It is Facebook sites left open, credit card numbers lost, intellectual property raided, and personal and corporate reputations damaged.

We have all heard the scary statistics – most of them unverifiable – about how people share information and devices, and about how companies are hacked without even knowing it.

So what do we conclude?

Well, the world has changed.  This is not about a change that might happen.  It has CHANGED.

The Internet IS integral to the lives of the next generation (and many of is in the current one).  Online communications ARE now rivalling face-to-face contact in many ways.  Attitudes to information, mobile devices and social media HAVE changed both our personal and our working lives irrevocably.

We live in a world cracked open by technology.  To enjoy its advantages and avoid its pitfalls, we have to find new ways to communicate and new rules to live by – whether in business or in our personal lives.

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

3 Responses to Fun and Fear in IT in 2012

  1. Iain Burns says:

    Well said Paul. I work with IT vendors helping them sell into that space and to the CIO that is “conflicted” like you. @tweetboats, Regards, Iain

  2. Alan Brown says:


    Having worked in IT the NHS for the last few years I can vouch for this fear – the fear of loss of patient information is keenly felt by patients and staff alike. We put in place strategies, policies, processes, procedures, training and controls with one hand and with the other encourage Cloud-computing, Bring-Your-Own-Device and direct patient access (to their own information). Scary!

    For me one of the big issues is how to help people that don’t understand the issues (either because of they are too young to appreciate the dangers, have missed the technology explosion (which is a decreasing minority of over-40s) or lack the capacity (having worked in Mental Health, something I am keenly aware of).


  3. Buzz Busby says:

    The challenge is does the social media interaction bring about a deteriation in the quality of life and are we all becoming too dependent on its uses and losing our ability to interact on a face to face basis.
    The amount of time we dedicate to using and digesting all this information is taken away from “teal” interaction. Whilst I am not anti technology or a technophobe I see too many cases of people at dinner more interested in Whats App’ing than conversation at the table. The rules have changed but nobody was consulted and to many of the “older generation” like me I wonder where it will all lead.
    Many of the younger generation seeem to have lost the capabilities to interact in a personal way with people who do not understand or do not use the modern and often overwhelming technological advances in communication. As with the introduction of email, in what seems like a prehistoric era to my kids, the pre 80s & 90s generation can still recall using the post. The kids think it is only for bills and infrequent birthday cards (which are now becoming increasingly digital). Life-work balance and social skills may well disappear from us all if we do not learn to curb the excessive dependencies on IT that we blindly accept, tollerate and welcome.

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