Requirements Gathering for an inclusive Digital Economy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Computing


This research is aimed at understanding the needs of older adults as it impacts job performance, and the conceptual challenges in designing appropriate accessible technology for an increasingly ageing workforce. For the Digital Economy to be successful, it is vital that the services it offers are truly inclusive, and, given the demographic trends, it is particularly important that they are easily and effectively used by older workers. Much current business software is not designed to be sensitive to the characteristics of older workers who, because of reducing sensory, motor and cognitive performance, are less able to use software than their younger colleagues. This is inefficient and can significantly effect the morale of this important part of the workforce. This project is the first stage in developing guidelines and software which is appropriate for an ageing workforce, and thus to ensure that the Digital Economy will be accessible to all. An initial requirements gathering exercise will be conducted which compares the needs and wants of the older worker with those of their younger colleagues. This will be a three centre experiment with requirements gathering in Dundee University, IBM New York and workers recruited by the University of Miami. These Centres, have substantial experience in this field, and are part of an IBM Open Collaborative Research Project to develop software which will be freely available and which will address the needs of older workers. This experiment is complementary to the IBM project. It will elicit IT requirements for older workers and address the issue of how best to integrate accessibility requirements into standard software. It will bring together academic leaders in the field, provide a wealth of basic data concerning workers' attitudes to current and future IT support and capture important cross cultural, as well as cross generational data.Eliciting the views of older people on current information technology can be difficult because of feelings of insecurity and incompetence, particularly if the questions relate to their employment. It is also very difficult to facilitate a discussion on future technology with people who not only may be technophobic, but may have no concept of the characteristics of future technologies. To resolve these challenges we will use a methodology, developed at Dundee University, which uses the skills of theatre professionals to facilitate discussions with groups of workers. Short (5 to 10 minute) plays will be specially written to illustrate the issues which can arise when older people interact with the Digital Economy. The ability of theatre to suspend disbelief will be utilised by the introduction of props and simple simulations to illustrate technologies which do not yet exist. These plays will be performed by actors to groups of younger and older workers and mixed audiences. This will be followed by a trained facilitator using the plays to introduce discussion periods. The audience will be encouraged to interact with the actors (who will stay in role as workers within the Digital Economy of the future) to address both technical and emotional issue. Subject experts will respond to specific technical questions. The audience will be encouraged to relate their own and others experiences and their own hopes and fears, and will be asked to vote on important issues. These discussions will be fully recorded and will provide both quantitative data on workers preferences, hopes and fears, as well as qualitative data including individual stories which illustrate individual experiences from the audience. This approach has been found to be very successful in eliciting sensitive data from divergent groups, particularly when different agendas are manifest. The use of experienced professional scriptwriters and actors, ensure that the experience will provide appropriate data as well as being an enjoyable experience for the participants.


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