The SRII (Service Research and Innovation Institute) Conference was a real eye opener to meand presented an exciting future in which we IT educators and professionals can be vitally important towards creating. The overriding theme of SRII and this initiative is that IT can/should be a driver to the betterment of our society by creating efficiencies in delivery of services.
Robert Morris (Vice President Services Research & Global Labs, IBM Research and Fortune Magazine’s “Smartest Scientist”) summed it up best for me in his keynote. He described how while manufacturing and even agriculture have done a decent job at leveraging information technology for productivity, for the most part service industries (healthcare, education, energy, etc.) have not and thus continue to be wasteful in their business processes. He went on to discuss that innovations like the IBM Watson project (from which the SIGITE 2011 keynote will come) are not simply fun exercises but in fact will be a driver in enhancing human-computer interactions. The technology being developed for Watson will create a new mechanism for computing systems to learn from one another and be able to properly interpret human communication, describing one use of such a technology to dramatically improve healthcare in the world.
As a professional organization dedicated to the field of information technology, this is where SIGITE can be sure that curriculum stays relevant and also be a driver for IT research. Our graduate degree programs and research can be directed towards leveraging information technology to deliver huge boosts for service industry verticals. Alas we are already starting to see this naturally emerge within academic IT departments developing specialties around these industries; health informatics, criminal justice, instructional technology, etc.
As academics in IT we also need to work closely with our computing brethren as the solutions to these needs require effort from each of us. Computer scientists will develop new systems like Watson above, information systems researchers will help organizations re-engineer their business processes to leverage technologies, and we information technology researchers can work towards finding out how to best implement these technologies into the new business practices in such a way that the systems are secure, manageable, and scalable.