Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?
Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 July 2014
Two International Conferences: SAOIM 2014 and ELAG 2014
In June I gave talks and facilitated workshop sessions at two international conferences: SAOIM 2014, the 12th Biennial Southern African Online Information Meeting which was held in Pretoria on 3-6 June and ELAG 2014, the annual European Library Automation Group Conference which was held at the University of Bath on 10-13 June.
Predicting and Planning for the Future
The theme of the SAOIM 2014 conference was “Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?“. This theme reflected my participation at the two events: at the SAOIM conference I gave a plenary talk on “Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future” and facilitated a half-day workshop on “Let’s Predict the Future!” and at the ELAG conference I facilitated a workshop on “Preparing For The Future” which was split into two 90 minute sessions held on two days.
The sessions were based on my involvement in the Jisc Observatory and the papers on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” and “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” which summarised the approaches developed by Cetis and UKOLN. Following the cessation of Jisc funding for this work the methodology is being shared with organisations who wish to make use of systematic approaches to help detect technological developments of importance to organisational planning processes.
The workshop has been refined since it was delivered at the ILI 2013 conference last October, at a staff development session at the University of York in July 2013 and at the UKSG 2013 conference in April 2013. In the updated version of the workshop once ‘Delphi’ processes for identifying technological developments have been used workshop participants then make use of an ‘action brief statement’ and a risk and opportunities framework for proposing ways in which the organisation may wish to further investigate the technological developments which have been identified. The action brief statement was developed by Michael Stephens and Kyle Jones for the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and the risk and opportunities framework was first described in a paper on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and subsequently further developed to address legal risks in a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“.
Reflections on SAOIM 2014
The SAOIM conference theme of “Predicting the Future: Reality or Myth?” was addressed by invited plenary talks and workshop sessions delivered by myself and Joe Murphy (@libraryfuture), Director of Library Futures and librarian and technology trend analyst at Innovative Interfaces. Joe gave the opening keynote talk at the conference on “Technical Analysis & Inspiration Points for Library Futures” and facilitated a workshop session on “Directions and destinations“.
Our sessions complemented each other nicely, with Joe providing exercises in getting the 60+ libraries attended his half-day workshop session to be willing to consider the implications of technological developments, including developments such as the jet pack! Although Joe was not proposing this as a likely development, it provided a useful means of getting the participants to think beyond the current technical environment.
In my session I asked the 60+ workshop participants to work in groups to identify technological developments which they feel will be important in the short term and medium term. A Google Doc containing a summary of their conclusions is available. In the workshop I then went on to provide a methodology for making a business case fro investigating the technological developments further.
Other Sessions at SAOIM 2014
The programme for the SAOIM 2014 conference is available (in PDF format) and many of the slides are also available. The talk which I found of particular interest was on Online Privacy and Data Protection (see slides in MS Powerpint format).
It seems that South Africa will shortly be introducing a Protection Of Personal Information (PPI and also known as POPI) Bill which is based on the privacy requirements which EU countries have enshrined in legislation. The bill is based on eight main principles. Of particular interest was the slide which described consent which must be obtained:
Consent that must be obtained
Before the data controller will be entitled to collect, use or process any personal information, it must obtain the prior written consent from the data subject to do so
- Consent requirement = key feature of PPI Bill
- Without consent no data that might have been collected may be used in any manner
- Unlawful usage can result in huge fines & possibility of imprisonment
Although such legal requirements may not seem unreasonable the speaker went on to provide examples of the implications of the legislation:
- You wish to provide a personalised recommendation service based on books library patrons have borrowed. You can’t until you have received written consent to do this!
- You wish to send an email to a library patron whose books are overdue and is accruing fines. You can’t until you have received written consent to do this!
Based on the interpretation of the law provided by the speaker it would appear that the legislation could make it difficult for services such as academic libraries to carry out existing services and develop new services unless, perhaps, they update their terms and conditions to allow them to make use of personal data. In light of the uncertainties of the implications and how organisations should respond there may well be new consultancy opportunities for the South African legal profession!
I found this session of particular interest as it highlighted potential legal barriers to the development of useful services for users and the need to understand ways in which such barriers can be addressed, whether in ensuring that terms and conditions provide sufficient flexibility to cater for a changing legal environment or, alternatively, for organisations to be willing to take risks. In the case of the PPI legislation since the person who feels their personal information is being used without their consent has to make a complaint to the appropriate authorities it seems to me that the student will the overdue books who receives a reminder will be unlikely to make a complain that they haven’t given explicit permission to receive such alerts!
Next Steps in Supporting Organisations in Predicting and Planning for the Future
The feedback from the two workshops was very positive. In light of this we will be looking to include further workshops as part of the Cetis consultancy offering. If you have an interest in this please get in touch.