One of the main challenges to the adoption of mobile technology in the workplace is ensuring employees have the "digital literacy" to use devices like tablets and smartphones, along with the cloud-based applications designed to be used on them.
That was the consensus of a panel at Computing's Enterprise Mobility Summit 2014 at the Hilton London Tower Bridge Hotel, which discussed the subject of "Lessons learnt from mobility - How have we overcome the challenges and what are the benefits" in front of an audience of IT leaders.
"The technology is absolutely there and the behaviours and culture towards it are quite fascinating," said Rocco Labellarte, head of technology and change delivery for corporate services at Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who described the difference in approach between younger staff – the digital natives – and their older counterparts.
"We recently gave staff in the social care area the choice of either having a tablet or a laptop and the interesting thing was that those under 25 absolutely loved the tablet. All of those over 25 used it as a tray, basically," Labellarte said.
"So the behaviour things, the cultural things, the age thing and the ability to use the devices is fundamental to how you develop [a mobile strategy]," he said.
Christine Sexton, director of corporate information and computing services for the University of Sheffield, said her users are mostly digital native who expect everything to be immediately available to them on any device.
"The technology's there to do almost everything, it's the people and processes that we need to change," she said.
"Something that's quite high on my agenda at the moment is digital literacy, because there's no point having these applications and these services if people don't know how to use them or how to get the best out of them," said Sexton, adding that the scale of this challenge depends on whether she's dealing with students or the teaching staff.
"A student coming into our university at the age of 18 doesn't know a time when the internet didn't exist. They hate email, they think it's the most old-fashioned thing they've seen in their lives and they don't want to use it.
"They've never known a time when what they want to do can't be delivered to them straight away. Like television, with being able to pause and rewind, so we've got a group of students coming in really pushing what they want delivered to them."
Then at the opposite end of the digital literacy scale, she said, are lecturers who don't understand how to use technology in general, let alone the latest tools such as tablets or smartphones.
"Some staff are enthusiastic early adopters, but then some aren't," she said.
"We did a survey of our students and we asked them what could we do with technology to enhance their learning. By far the biggest comment we got from all of them was they'd like staff to be able to use the existing technology better," Sexton said. "Everything from using the virtual learning environment to upload their PowerPoint slides, to simple things like lecturers knowing how to turn laptops on in the lecture theatres.
"So digital literacy is a really big issue, particularly as we moved towards mobile and more apps, you've got to help people use the applications and get the most out of them, otherwise we won't get any benefit," Sexton concluded.
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