Scanning Retrospective, No. 27

‘From the pages of prospect’ – No. 2

[Originally published] Issue 2, Dec 2000

  • Vacation too wired? You’re not alone
  • Railway web
  • Federal Government removes tertiary ‘sectoral divide’

Vacation too wired? You’re not alone

(Lisa M. Bowman)

Workers are having more trouble than ever unwinding and unwiring themselves while on vacation.

According to a study by Andersen Consulting, 83 percent of people who vacationed for a week or more stayed in touch with the office. Most checked voice mail, but 16 percent took a laptop, and most of those used it to get their e-mails. One poor soul said he returned 300 e-mails while supposedly getting some R&R. And one out of every 25 people scored the keep-in-touch trifecta – bringing along a cell phone, a laptop and a pager on their vacation.

“Staying connected is increasingly becoming a fact of life in the new economy,” Thomas H. Davenport, director of Andersen’s Institute for Strategic Change, said in a statement accompanying the study. Added Andersen Chief Scientist Glover Ferguson Jr.: “Overall, business has extended into a new phase of a highly competitive, highly charged environment.” He said most people are contacting the office not to work, but to make sure that important job tasks are handled by the right person in their absence. “A lot of this e-mail access that occurs on vacation is exactly that – triage,” he said.

Among the other study findings:

    • about one-third of the respondents said they were “not thrilled” at the prospect of staying in touch, but recognised it was necessary;
    • another 25 percent said they stayed connected so they didn’t have to deal with a backlog when they returned;
    • and 25 percent said they were “grateful that we have the technology to stay in touch.”

The respondents worked in sectors ranging from health care to high technology to construction.

Source: ZDNet Asia,2000006881,20068498-1,00.htm.
Copyright © 2000, ZDNet Asia Pacific Pte Ltd. This is an edited version of the complete article. Used with permission.

Railway web

The search for cheaper ways of bringing telephones and Internet access to the world’s most populous countries has researchers turning to India’s famous 19th-century communications network: its railway system. Under construction since British colonial times, it is one of the world’s most wide-spread and dense rail networks. It stretches across the country’s poorest and most remote regions with 8,000 stations sitting at an average distance of eight kilometres from one another and bundles of underemployed communications cable running along side the track between them.

A pilot project will begin to route telephone calls and Internet data along a 60-kilometre section of railroad in south central India. Employing Internet-style “packet switching” on modified digital subscriber lines, researchers estimate that the railway cables can support a bandwidth of one million bits per second, allowing the hundreds of people near each station to be connected to telephone and the Internet for the first time.

Source: Acknowledgment to the Commonwealth of Learning, and its newsletter “Connections,” June 2000.

Federal Government removes tertiary ‘sectoral divide’

This item is included as a tribute to the late Dr Warren Osmond, former editor of Campus Review, who died recently. A few weeks before his death, Dr Osmond visited Swinburne to speak about tertiary sector issues, both “Higher Ed” and “TAFE/VET.” As a fervent watcher of tertiary education policy, he offered the following insightful observation of a potential education policy decision. In his words (as best I can recall):

a Federal Government of the not-too-distant future – perhaps the next one, perhaps the one after – will, for purely economic reasons, remove the divide between the two main tertiary sectors. This will not be done for any enlightened reasons; it will be done purely for reasons of fiscal simplification – and the opportunity to cut overall funding to tertiary education as a result.

This would certainly be a wildcard of the first order for an inter-sectoral tertiary institution such as Swinburne!

The question we need to ask ourselves, standing “in” this potential future, is “what effect would this have on how we make our living as a tertiary institution?”

An unfortunately common reaction to many proposed scenarios is the reaction “I don’t believe it will happen” – and all useful thinking then stops right there. Instead, by consciously placing ourselves “into” such a future, we are then able to use our logical and critical faculties to imagine a path forward through such a future.

The purpose of scenario work is to create self-consistent structures and sequences of potential future events, and to use them as a basis for designing and imagining alternative courses of action, which help navigate us through those events acceptably. Whether or not they ultimately happen, we are, at least, better prepared to act wisely, by thinking beyond the “default” (and implicit) business-as-usual future. In this case, what lessons of cooperation do we learn today from such a scenario? This question is left as an exercise for the reader 🙂.


prospect is a quarterly publication of the Foresight & Planning Unit, Swinburne University of Technology.

Futura tenaciter in prospectu tenemus

This publication is intended to serve the broader Swinburne community, by highlighting areas of interest and concern to Swinburne stakeholders, by helping us take a long-term foresight view, and to expand our perceptions of our strategic options as we move forward together into our common future.

This collection is © 2000 FPU and Swinburne University of Technology. Copyright for the individual articles resides with the original authors and/or the original sources as listed. All articles have been used either with express permission or, where express permission is not required, following stipulated re-use guidelines.

NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

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