It's often assumed that tech-savvy young people entering the workforce won't be happy if they're blocked from their favourite Web sites and gadgets. However, fears that such "digital natives" will rebel against traditional workspace strictures may be blinding companies from taking advantage of their problem-solving abilities, a Gartner researcher has warned.
Speaking at Gartner's Asia-Pacific Government Summit in Queensland, VP Andrea Di Maio said that the problem of how to construct technology which works equally well for multiple generations is only just beginning to be addressed by government IT managers.
"We have this dichotomy between the digital natives who have grown up surrounded by technology and those who have acquired the ability to use technology in the course of our lives," he said.
While the behaviour of "digital natives" was often seen as disruptive in tradition-bound government organisations, Di Maio said that experience of collaborating in digital communities would actually be of great benefit to most IT projects.
"The digital natives want to be part of the solution," he said. "[Older users] primarily belong to established communities. [Digital natives] already today, and more and more tomorrow, will belong to a variety of online communities with a given time span."
Plans for IT also needed to reflect the increased desire for collaboration by future users, Di Maio said. "It is very likely that the applications we deploy now will be running in 10 or 15 years. They are going to be there for a long time, and we need to address that."
One early casualty of this change in attitude would be government service portals, Di Maio predicted. "These portals will actually become irrelevant," he said.
Users would rather service their needs through their own choice of site, whether that was a large-scale Web application provider like Google or a specific community which could help answer a particular problem. "The ownership of that relationship with stay with a community or multiple communities, and no longer with government."
That requires a fundamental shift in application design. "People will not be willing to use the services the way you design them. How can you build an information architecture without knowing how many possible use scenarios you have to build? It becomes a constant listening exercise."