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Digital natives spur rethink of information systems - University of Auckland

Digital natives spur rethink of information systems – University of Auckland

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The young people now entering the workplace are the first generation to have grown up in a digital world – hence the term “digital natives”.

That, combined with the spread of ubiquitous information systems, such as social media sites Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have profound implications for business, say researchers in the Business School’s Department of Information Systems and Operational Management (ISOM).

The Department’s head, Professor Michael Myers, says the phenomenon potentially challenges traditional theories about the development and use of information systems. Traditional theories, which grew out of studies of earlier generations of workers, known as “digital immigrants”, tend to assume that people have difficulty with new information technologies and that they resist change.

“But digital natives have a very different attitude to technology. They like new technologies and they like change,” says Professor Myers.

“For one thing, they are less concerned about privacy. Social media sites are where they live and where, in part, they construct a sense of who they are. A young employee in one company, for instance, talked quite openly on Facebook about the fact that he was being performance managed.”

To explore the implications of the emergence of digital natives and the simultaneous growth of ubiquitous information systems (UIS), Myers, ISOM colleague Associate Professor David Sundaram and PhD student Shahper Vodanovich, co-authored an academic paper that mapped the new research territory.

The paper, “Digital Natives and Ubiquitous Information Systems”, published in the internationally-renowned journal Information Systems Research, acknowledged that the boundaries between professional and personal life and between the office and home were dissolving.

“More so than their digital immigrant counterparts, digital natives have intertwined the digital world and its numerous technologies as a part of their daily lives,” Myers, Sundaram and Vodanovich wrote.

They proposed carrying out research to answer four questions:

  • How and why are digital natives engaging with UIS?
  • How are traditional information systems being transformed by digital natives and UIS?
  • How should UIS be designed for digital natives?
  • What are the impacts of UIS on people, organisations and society?

“Until now, digital natives have mainly been discussed in the education literature and UIS by computing and information systems specialists. What we have done is bring the two together. We think this is potentially a new paradigm for research into information systems,” says Myers.

He adds that business needs to understand how to integrate diverse technological, social and managerial issues arising from the new environment when designing, building and managing new information and communication technologies.

“Whilst the range and reach of activities for digital natives is tremendously increased through the use of information systems, it also poses many problems, issues and challenges,” he says.

They range from work/life balance issues to governance and security challenges.

Myers’ team is now working with international colleagues, Professor Kalle Lyytinen of Weatherfield School of Management in the United States, Professor Brent Gallupe of Queens School of Business in Canada and Associate Professor Youngjin Yoo from the Fox School of Business and Management in the United States to develop a research programme that will include field experiments, case studies, simulation and laboratory experiments.

Many thanks to the University of Auckland Business School for sending thru this awesome whakaaro.  We will try and find the paper and upload it here soon.

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