A Modest Proposal: Universal Internet Access and a Chief Digital Officer in Every Organization

September 28, 2015

Facebook supports universal Internet access. Support is not enough from one or two outfits. Facebook wants the United Nations to make universal Internet access a priority.

Navigate to “Mark Zuckerberg Addresses the UN, Declaring Universal Internet Access a Global Priority.” I wonder if peace keeping, food, education, and other priorities of the United Nation will be down prioritized or de-prioritized. If I were hoping for UN food assistance, I would definitely want to be able to check my Facebook. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is obviously wrong. At the top, Facebook.

I also noted this article, “IT Still Doesn’t Understand Its Role in Society.” The author is a self described “IT leader.” The point is, I think:

It struck me, when I opened this September’s edition, just how much things have moved on. This month gives much more space to the changing role of IT and its part in business leadership. That of course lies at the heart of the debate about CIOs and CDOs – the former seeming inextricably constrained by operational IT matters, whether insourced or outsourced, and the latter filling the vacuum created by misalignment between IT activity and business priority. Everyone seems agreed that the role of a CDO is not about the technology. It is about people and process. But it cannot operate without a fundamental understanding about the opportunity that technology offers, and therefore CDOs must work closely with IT professionals.

The word choice is well matched with the imperative to make technology become the source for wild and crazy assertions. I like the use of the acronyms CIO and CDO. I am not sure what a CDO is, but that is not important. The precision of insourced and outsourced, where the outsourcing thing fills “the vacuum created by misalignment between IT activity and business priority.”

Okay, the folks running the business are not exactly sure what’s up with IT. If a senior manager tuned in to Facebook’s remarks about universal Internet access, there might be some furrowed brows.

What’s the fix?

The answer is a new job position at companies. The CDO. (My hunch is that this acronym means “chief digital officer.”) When revenues are stressed, most senior managers will gladly add to the organization’s headcount to get a CDO on the team.

I highlighted this passage:

So we need clever technical specialists, but we also need IT professionals who can bridge the gap between technology opportunity and the benefits that technology can bring society. That is why the goal of BCS – the Chartered Institute for IT – is “to make IT good for society”. That should be the role of IT professionals. This means that IT professionals need to understand the impact of technology, positive and negative, in the way systems and IT tools are designed. It means IT has a significant part to play in the debate about privacy and trust emerging from IT changes. It means we have a part to play in the way systems are designed to benefit society, not just to make profit. And it means IT is a creative, human discipline, not just a scientific and engineering profession.

Okay. But what about the Facebook suggestion to make Internet access universal. Will checking the Facebook obviate hunger and disease? Will information technology move beyond profit to benefiting society.

What’s at stake here? My hunch the focus for Facebook thing and the self appointed expert’s CDO recommendation has more to do with money and boosting the notion of the importance of technology in the modern world.

Was Maslow incorrect? Is Facebook connectivity more important than food? Are companies in need of more headcount in order to make headway in the datasphere?

Nope. Why not sit back and let the Alphabet Google thing do the job? Some big thinkers want governments to be more like Google. No Facebook. No information technology intermediaries. Why search for information when a commercial enterprise and self appointed experts know best what folks like me want?

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2015


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