Future of ICT: Four Scenarios of 2020

At the WCIT I picked up an interesting publication, “ICT 2020: Four Scenarios Stories”. It is produced by Daniel Erasmus & Co (the team is called DTN), for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The report is a very good piece, concise but informative and nicely illustrated. In many respects this can be seen a classical case of the scenario approach – starting with the expert interviews, followed by the brainstorms and scenario development, expressed as the interesting narratives. This small book can work almost like a manual, the ‘how to’ of the future scenario development.

There is also quite an elaborate website affiliated with this team/report (Future of IT), that combines a wiki about scenario development (comprehensive, but looking a bit abandoned, as far as I noticed) and a very informative video with the interviews of about ten well-known gurus in the field of “New Technologies”.

At some point these scenarios (called Efficient ICT, Big is Beautiful, Internet Islands, and New Frontiers) are presented as a tree with the forking pathways (itself a great improvement compared to the usual ‘Four Quadrants’ formats, but still causing some questions about how these scenarios were generated).

Unfortunately, this forking tree metaphor is not reflected on the cover of the report (see the first picture). As is, it represents a mix of a ‘crystal ball gazing’ and ‘looking forward’, widespread cliches of the folk futurology. But metaphor aside, the report itself is very good, informative and inspiring. The key problem it is still a very much inside-out thinking, a summary of the ideas by the IT professionals themselves only. There is a very little ‘craziness’, if you will, in all these scenarios; they are all developed from the same voice/mindset, the same I-position, if to use the language of the Multiple Self approach. As a result, it often remains on the level of litany (following the categorization by Sohail Inayatullah), despite all the claims of the authors to ‘challenge assumptions’ and ‘assume nothing’.

I would nevertheless recommend to anybody who is interested in the matters (of either IT or future studies) to fetch a copy of the report – apparently you can order it at the Ministry of Economic Affairs website.

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