6 January 2016 | 0
We all know that the IT world has a tendency toward hyperbole. Words like ‘revolutionary’ and ‘disruptive’ are peppered through press releases, usually in tandem with phrases like ‘paradigm shift’, ‘game changing’, ‘limitless possibilities’, ‘business transformation’, ‘the digital economy’ and ‘the Internet of Things’.
That’s not to say IT doesn’t deserve recognition for the part it has played as the world has undergone significant changes over the past 70 years or so. But even as the hype drive is being fired up (to warp speed) to enthuse and galvanise us with the endless possibilities and changes promised by trends such as cloud computing, Big Data and IoT, we need to remember the physical limitations that will prevent it from fully lifting off. Before we lose our heads in the cloud, it’s worth acknowledging that IT is still earthbound.
Here in Ireland, we have seen very clear evidence of the physical limitations of IT in the past few weeks. The sad fact is that no matter how much the government, businesses and households have invested in computing, it hasn’t prevented towns, homes and businesses from being flooded across Ireland. No matter which ‘next generation’ your IT belongs to, all it takes is a splash of water to disable it. And you can’t use IT to build flood defences to protect your house or business with either.
True, some of those who have been forced to abandon their flooded houses and seek refuge elsewhere might gain some comfort if their temporary shelter has Wi-Fi capabilities but it’s hardly likely to compensate for the devastation and disruption they have suffered from the flood waters of the Shannon.
Similarly, those Syrian refugees we see making their way into Europe may well be grateful for the smartphones that help them keep in touch with the loved ones they left behind, but they are no substitute for the once peaceful existence they enjoyed in their homeland. Access to the Internet and the availability of Facebook or Twitter are unlikely to compensate for the potentially fatal journey to a life of perpetual exile in far off lands.
Which is not to say that IT has no value but merely to acknowledge that it can be of little practical value in countering physical threats to our everyday living. Sometimes, with all the talk of Ireland as a digital economy, it feels as if the government has lost sight of the physical country that underpins those claims.
Ireland is a place where it rains a lot and rivers flood and where, thanks to climate change, that trend is likely to get worse. It’s a place where it should be a major priority to invest in flood defences and strategies aimed at mitigating the effects of flooding for the people that live here and the businesses in its towns and villages.
After all, you can’t have a digital economy if your country is underwater.