Resume of the Dresdner Zukunftsforum 2005 Life in the Digital World

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Along with the internet technology itself, the 1st Dresden Future Forum focused particularly on the effects of that technologys use. How will the current developments influence our lives and our work? What will it take to prepare us humans for life in a digitised world? What demands will our education system face, for example? Which business models make sense, what standards are necessary? Although the limited scope of a one-day event allowed no more than a brief spotlight to be cast on these issues, it quickly became clear that the subjects presented here both caused and merited much discussion and will continue to do so.

In her keynote speech, Michelle de Lussanet, principal analyst of the European telecoms and mobile team at Forrester Research, posited the fundamental theory that in future no company will be able to succeed if it does not adapt to the development of the Extended Internet and endeavour to integrate it into its business models. She noted that this new Internet, which will soon connect not just computers but all objects of daily life, is already being implemented in many places.

Dr. Andreas Schleicher, Head of the Indicators and Analysis Division of the Directorate for Education in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and responsible among other things for the “Programme for International Student Assessment”, also known as the PISA study, pointed out that a country like Germany will have to excel in education to the same extent as it is more expensive than other countries. Never before have the opportunities resulting from a high standard of education been so great, but at the same time the risks associated with a low level of education have also never been greater. He also noted that our education system could be much further advanced today if the knowledge of those working within in were networked. Information technology must create new learning environments that enable networked learning from home, from school or from libraries. Today’s transfer of knowledge on a “just in case” basis must be replaced by knowledge transfer on a “just in time” or “just for me” basis. The required individualised learning creates untold potential for the use of modern technologies such as for example the Internet.

In the following round table discussions, Dr. Eilif Trondsen, Head of the Learning On Demand Programme at SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, a spin-off of the Stanford Research Institute, presented an e-learning framework that combines knowledge management, simulation, gaming and e-learning in a wide range of forms. He went on to say that the previously rather formal learning process will become more informal, and explained that the Extended Internet is the most suitable method of communication to allow informal and individual learning networks to develop.

In their round table discussion, world-famous mountaineer Kurt Albert and Steffen Prasse, Program Manager at T-Systems Multimedia Solutions, revealed surprising similarities between mountain climbing and managing programs, for example in distributing tasks and responsibilities within a team.

Stephan Schambach, CEO of Demandware, Inc., pointed out that the two big trends “Open Source” and “Software as a Service” � can be combined, making traditional software development, licensing and sales models obsolete.

Prof. Gerhard Banse of the Fraunhofer Application Centre for Logistics System Planning and Information Systems explained the principles of technological impact assessment and described its methods. He pointed out that technology impact assessment must be discussed on three levels: on the level of the individual, on the level of businesses and institutions and for society as a whole.

In the project discussion with Dr. Klaus Radermacher, Managing Director of T-Systems Multimedia Solutions, Eberhard Burger, building director in the reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche, emphasised that transparency, honesty, credibility, open communication and the involvement of all participants, who must have understood the project in its entirety, are what guarantee the success and high level of acceptance of the project. Traditional, formal, linear project management was not sufficient to meet the requirements of the complex reconstruction of the Frauenkirche. Of decisive importance here was a project manager networked with his team and continuously available to solve any new problems as they arose.

Prof. Karsten Buse, holder of the Heinrich Hertz Foundation Chair of Deutsche Telekom AG for Communication Sensors at the University of Bonn, used selected examples (such as storing information at atomic level) to demonstrate that developments in acquiring, transmitting, storing and displaying information will continue to take place in quantum leaps.

The contributions heard made clear that we are at the beginning of a development that will change our society. Progress has reached a point where everyday objects of any kind can be equipped with state-of-the-art information technology and thus given “intelligent” properties. The effects of such a far-reaching informatisation of our everyday lives in the longer term can hardly be fully assessed today. Discussion in terms of technology impact assessment in connection with the Extended Internet is still rare. The wider public so far seems unconcerned with the prospects ahead. One reason for this could be that everyday use of information technology is increasing almost unnoticeably, so that we often only become conscious of technology when it fails. Countless fields of application for “intelligent” items of everyday use are imaginable. Which of these are used is decided not so much by their technical feasibility, but rather by their economic viability and also legal and moral acceptability. In the long term, the wide range of possible applications provides many challenges, for example in the regulatory field, with regard to the reliability of the technology used or concerning privacy protection.

The event made it clear that there is a need for discussion in the context of the increasing informatisation of our everyday lives. The announcement that T-Systems Multimedia Solutions is planning to continue the Dresden Future Forum was therefore all the more welcome. The event was presented by Prof. Peter Glotz, former director of the Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen.