I'm guilty. Of what? Of oftentimes jumping to propose ICT solutions before I really understand the nature of the problem. And unfortunately, many times, those who truly know the need are more than happy to follow me.
I've written about how the road to discovering appropriate solutions is a conversation here, here and here. At the same time, it's disingenuous for technologists like myself to assume that we can solve every problem with our tool-set: "I'm a hammer, everything is a nail." Before we start that conversation we need to know the limits of our technology so that we can ultimately determine whether or not we can provide an effective solution.
If I think about ICT, these are the basic building blocks:
- Information - data collection, storage, access
- Communication - transfer of data between two or more points
- Computation - calculation, algorithms, pattern recognition
And what do I find many times is the root cause of a problem, and also one that resists technological solutions? Behavior - whether it's at the individual or organizational/cultural level, about personal motivation or societal norms. This is where ICT projects often fail because they may do a superb job of managing the bits but they can't touch behavior.
So, have that conversation and apply your favorite root cause analysis method. Just don't try to force a technological solution if at the end it won't be able to address the real challenge.
BTW, I mention behavior as an issue and I've been very interested in exploring how technology might actually be applied to behavior change. I came across BJ Fogg's Behavior Model (FBM) a few months ago and it provides a simple framework for "persuasive design" (i.e. design targeted at affecting behaviors). And I wonder: how can the approach be applied to designing technology - how can the same principles be integrated - when the goal is not to change behavior specifically but when behavior change is a barrier to adoption? How do you design so that behavior change is essentially unnecessary? How do you make the technology effectively disappear?