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Skills in the spotlight:, Part 1: the next generation
Friday, February 29, 2008

Two skills stories dominate the industry today. First, news that basic computing skills are on the rise among schoolchildren, and especially among girls.

Seventy-three percent of the 1,000 seven to 16 year-old respondents to a Tesco Computers for Schools programme survey were able to use a search engine and 62% were proficient at editing documents.

Only six percent of girls said they lacked confidence using computers, against 10% of boys. The figures are more impressive when set against the 57% of parents who said they relied on their children for computing advice, which is perhaps the most significant statistic – along with the 40% minority of parents who believed they were more proficient with a PC than their children.

The hidden lesson of the survey is that 70% of the young people surveyed were able to create a social networking profile on MySpace, Facebook, Bebo (the most popular site with young people), and so on – eight percent more than those able to edit documents, and twice the number who were able to manipulate photographs.

This is significant for several reasons: one, social networking sites are, above all, well-designed applications that encourage other application developers and entrepreneurs; two, because they are redefining social and business interaction and the media that surround us;  three, because many of these sites, along with Linkedin and a dozen or so other portals, have become multimillion-dollar assets in the space of a handful of years; and four, because they have – along with companies such as Apple, Sony, Google and others – transformed a generation’s perception of what technology is for. Children understand this, which is good news for the future.

The conclusion is that technology that is simple, attractive, does not lock you in, and connects people around viable communities of interest is good technology – something that people volunteer to use and spend up to two hours a day enjoying in their own time. That is surely a lesson for all of us who have any connection with customer interaction, service, and application development.

In other words, if you want to reach your customers and provide a service that works and is enjoyable, then design something that allows people to talk to each other.

More in part 2.


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