Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Myth of the Service Economy and Individualism

Greetings from the ACS Canberra Branch 2015 Annual Conference where Chris Vein, CEO, Dome Advisory Services is giving the Plenary Keynote, on "Innovating Innovation – Creating the Next Generations of Empowerment". He asserts that there will be new companies in the service industry and they will provide technology for empowering the individual. I have no doubt that there will be such companies, but Mr. Vein seems to forget that mobile wireless services depend on having physical mobile devices. The world will still need engineers who work out how to make things and a manufacturing industry to make them. Mobile phones are an example of a very carefully engineered mass produced product.

Mr. Vein also suggested that on-line services will empower individuals to make their own choices. However, those choices will be constrained by the choices made by the service designer. We need trained ICT professionals, with a ethical framework, to make good choices. Otherwise there is the danger of a dystopiain future where citizens lives are controlled through their smart phones. Imagine a fixture where you want to go to meet someone to discuss concern over a corporation, or a government, and your phone will not make a transport booking for you because it is not interests of the corporation, or the government, controlling your phone service. This may sound like si-fi but already if you are an on-line punter and you win too much, the company will simply suspend your service, as it is not in their interests for you to win.

One suggestion from Mr. VeinI did agree with was about education. He suggested that companies would take in new staff direct from school and train them in-house, rather than recruiting college and university graduates. However, I suggest this is not a new concept, these are called "apprentices" or "cadets". This approach has been applied in large government and non-government organizations for decades. About the only change is that apprentices are now typically trained in partnership with Higher Education institutions. The apprentice obtains a formal educational qualification as well as work experience (some employers are registered to issue their own qualifications).

In Canberra, the Australian Public Service has ICT Apprenticeship and ICT Cadetship programs. The apprentices work full time and study part-time for a Certificate IV or Diploma in ICT (payed for by the employer). The cadets work part time and study at university (receiving a study allowance). The apprentices and cadets make excellent students, as what they are studying can be immediately applied in their day job.

There will be a place for advanced university degrees. A PHD is, in effect, a form of very high level apprenticeship for researchers. We will also see more professional doctorates, orientated to the needs of the workplace, to solve the world's most difficult problems.

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