Technology Laggards

There is a concept of a “Technology Adoption Life Cycle“.  I’m sure you’ve seen it before, or at least a variation of it.

The bottom scale is the age of the technology from the beginning to it’s obsolescence.  The people getting on board early are the Innovators, followed by the Early Adopters and so on.  I didn’t know until I started researching it that it has actually been in existence for many years and the terms were originally defined by the North Central Rural Sociology Committee, Subcommittee for the Study of the Diffusion of Farm Practices.  It was interesting their definitions of the terms:

  • innovators – had larger farms, were more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented
  • early adopters – younger, more educated, tended to be community leaders, less prosperous
  • early majority – more conservative but open to new ideas, active in community and influence to neighbours
  • late majority – older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active
  • laggards – very conservative, had small farms and capital, oldest and least educated

Now here is the part where I potentially get people upset.  My apologies but I’m still going to say it.

From a technology perspective, governments as a whole are somewhat conservative.  In some things they are more than conservative, they are falling may behind everyone else.  Now, traditionally governments are seen as being laggards when it comes to technology.  The rapid rate of change and the slow rate of decision making means that as time progresses we are farther and farther out of date.  When you’re dealing with the mainframe and the decision, back in the 80’s, as to whether to continue with the 3278 Model 2 or move to the 3278 Model 3, time delay is not a huge factor.  But today, when a few years delay means a seismic change in technology, processes and, more importantly, culture, government goes from being early/late majority to laggards.

And look how laggards are described:  “very conservative, had small farms and capital, oldest and least educated”  Ouch.  Now, I’m sure that they weren’t talking about our government.  Specifically.

There are many people who say that the government shouldn’t be innovators.  That the government shouldn’t be early adopters.  But why not?  Why shouldn’t government give its citizens what they want?  With the advent of smart phones, with the rapid increase in technological capability, even for small firms, the average citizen’s expectations of companies has risen.  Why shouldn’t their expectations of their government rise as well?

Oh, but it costs too much to stay with the latest fad.”  We’re not talking about fads, we’re talking about industry trends that have been in place for years but we have not yet adopted.  Cloud computing?  Amazon started selling it in 2006, Microsoft in 2010 and Google Cloud started up in December 2013.  Office 365 was launched June 28, 2011.  Over six years ago.  Agile product development published their Agile Manifesto in 2001 and yet government applications are so heavily focused on waterfall development that they have not bothered to learn what the rest of the world has done in the past sixteen years.

So, generally speaking, when it comes to technology is our government a laggard?

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