Berners-Lee’s Definition of Digital Divide – Beg to Differ

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It is strange to see how far removed researchers and inventors can be from corporate reality.

Tim Berners-Lee, the father of Internet, says that all school students should be given some hands-on experience of programming. (Click here to read article “Programming ability is the new digital divide: Berners-Lee”). He cannot be more far from reality when he goes on to say that lack of programming knowledge leaves users at the mercy of corporations.

I am not against giving hands-on experience of programming to students, but to say that users are at the mercy of corporations because of lack of programming knowledge is far from true.

Any one who has implemented IT systems will vouch that the cause of IT failures (and the infamous ERP failures) in corporate world is not lack of programming knowledge, but lack of what I call Computer Awareness among the senior managers who are involved in the implementations or use of IT solutions. This includes managers, Heads of departments and CEOs.

Tim says, “…this approach will promote a view of the computer as a machine that can be made to do anything its owner wants rather than a domestic appliance “like a fridge”, performing certain fixed tasks.” Any CIO will tell you that the problem is not of under-expectation, but over expectation. Need is to tune down the expectations of managers to realistic levels. With the common belief that computer is a super machine, the expectations are sky high resulting in disappointment, frustrations and friction when the results are not so instant and, most often, not so miraculous.

The real need in order to reduce the amount of ERP failure (which researchers say is anywhere between 70% to 80%) is for functional managers, functional heads and CEOs who can intelligently interact with consultants, with realistic expectation, with an understanding of the human, behavioral and change management demands of IT. It is a common misconception among managers that they need to know technology. While working on any project, a manager needs to manage people and manage change. While working on an IT project like ERP implementation, a manager on the contrary has to unlearn about computers and not really learn.

The real digital divide then is between IT and non IT. Another divide is between managers who understand this change management aspect or people aspect of technology and those who just do not understand. They look at every IT problem as a technical problem. There are others who know that there is much more to IT implementations than technology.

Some of my previous posts which discuss the human and behavioral aspect of IT in greater details:
Need for IT Awareness amongst CEOs and Senior Professionals
Behavioral IT – The People Aspects of IT-Driven Change
The Best and Worst CEO for Computerization
How and why IT fails
More Relevant Posts..

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One Response to “Berners-Lee’s Definition of Digital Divide – Beg to Differ”

  1. Tablet integration in schools | Tablets in education Says:

    […] 2009 mentioned a third digital divide in his own blog about change and Info Tech management. This divide is between “IT aware“ […]


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