The Information society in the third Millenium


How will the society change through the use of information systems within the next centuries ? What will be the social impact and how can human kind prepare for that ? These are hot questions for both, the industries as well as for all people whose work environment and skill requirements undergo a continuous adaptation.

A Virtual Society and Work Culture
In 1998 ISCN started an ambitious project in cooperation with Hyperwave, a leading information management system provider who won the EU IT price in 1997, supported by the European Commission. This project developed a virtual office on top of Hyperwave servers which allows distributed groups to work on joint development projects as if they are working within the same building.

It has been tested over distances of more than 1000 km and offers a virtual office through a joint Internet server with project administration, team based work-flows, configuration management, communication facilities, security mechanisms, and quality control.

Currently the system is tested by leading German and Scandinavian firms and a first industry release will be freezed at the beginning of 1999.

Through such technologies cooperation across borders and limits becomes possible and especially in a European Union where mobility is a key element such a technology can become a key asset. Mobility meant huge overheads on travel in the past, but virtual offices will allow mobility with largely reduced travel overhead.

Ambitious ideas are to connect different regions of Europe or also to e.g. build a virtual bridge between the U.S., Europe, and India.

Technologies for Non-Technicians
Looking in the past it seems that society develops into 10% technology specialists and 90% users who (as non-technicians) have to continuously adapt themselves to new technocratic developments. To test another option some ISCN consortia (sub-groups sharing budgets for cost shared initiatives) designed a new development model, called "development by configuration". User Interface and functionality is configured from a pool of ready-to-use objects and data can easily be configured without any change of code. Such easy to configure systems allow non-technicians to become meta programmers who do not have to code but just configure to get their system.

The above described virtual office system, for instance, has been developed with this approach and without code tailoring the system can be adapted to different customer interfaces and data.

This way of work creates larger design effort for the 10% technical specialists but in the long run this will make the 90% users to kind-of-programmers and will allow higher acceptance of technical solutions throughout the society (not only in specialised groups).


A Virtual University
Currently the education systems throughout Europe are not comparable. There are different skill requirements, learning paths, titles, and the chances for education are still not equal throughout the society.

The university 3000 will look different. There is a pilot project for the 5th framework programme which works on a virtual university which allows all people (not only rich people and those who can afford to send the son to a university hundreds of kilometers away) to attend skill tests, examinations, and courses on-line and receive on-line recommendations for their learning paths.

It is planned that also this system is completely configurable and allows to configure with different tests, skill criteria, learning paths, courses and recommendations will come from an electronic system configured with the right information.


A Look Into The Future
Currently researchers in the U.S. analyse the behaviour of photons (not bound to the limit of light speed) and found out that each photon has a brother photon with reverse drive. And if you change the drive of the sister the brother also changes the drive immediately, even over light years.

Now imagine, that this relationship is used to build virtually connected storages over light years who are updated immediately if the brother storage is updated.

Using just the same technology (virtual office and university) this research could lead to joint work forces and universities over light years away.

The Author: Dr Richard Messnarz
Dr Richard Messnarz is the Technical Director of ISCN, the technical co-ordinator of the PICO (Process Improvement Combined apprOach) initiative, the co-ordinator of the software engineering group within the pilot project for the virtual university, and editor of a book published from IEEE "Better Software Practice for Business Benefit" (early spring 1999 or late 1998).