Hyperconnectivity: Friend or foe?

There's no question that we're all getting hyperconnected, but is that good or bad?

An April 2007, Time magazine feature called, "The Hyperconnected," was illustrated with a picture of a person's wrist handcuffed to a mobile device. This image faithfully conveys a common and growing reaction to the explosion in connected devices and communication applications in our culture.

The idea behind the Time article is that constant connectivity through cell phone calls, SMS, instant messaging, social networks, blogs and other media is a burdensome imposition on our peace and sanity. "Can't we just unplug once in a while?" has become a mantra for a new kind of anti-hyperconnectivity sentiment.

Someone is "imposing" all this connectivity on us, clearly, and for Time, it's Silicon Valley's "obsessed" Internet CEOs, who create products that act like drug pushers forcing us into addiction. The average Joe on the street might blame the companies we work for, that require us to carry BlackBerries so we can respond to work-related queries at all hours.

But a new IDC study correctly blames you and me - users - and says we're "forcing" hyperconnectivity on the enterprise.

The coming 'stampede' of hyperconnectivity

A study published this week, conducted by IDC and paid for by Nortel Networks, emphasized the pressure put to bear on enterprises and IT departments by hyperconnected users to provide the level of hyperconnectivity they're used to in their personal lives. (IDC surveyed 2,400 "business users" in 17 countries in North America, Europe, Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America.)

IDC defines a "hyperconnected" user as someone who uses at least seven communication devices (landline phone, cell phone, PC, etc.) and nine communication applications (IM, Web conferencing, social networks, etc.)

An "increasingly connected" worker, according to IDC, is one who uses between four and six communication devices, and between six and eight applications.

Some 16 per cent of workers surveyed fall into IDC's definition of "hyperconnected" and 36 per cent "increasingly connected." China and the US have the highest percentages of hyperconnected users, according to the survey. Interestingly, the groups with the lowest percentage of "hyperconnected" users includes Canada. So much for the "America Junior" theory of Canadian culture.

Within five years, IDC predicts that 40 per cent of workers will be "hyperconnected." This movement, from 16 per cent to 40 per cent, is what IDC calls a "stampede."

How to stop worrying and learn to love hyperconnectivity

IDC's vision - probably accurate or even conservative - is a nightmare scenario for those who feel like they're being dragged, kicking and screaming, into a world of ubiquitous electronic communications. It's even, as the IDC report spells out, a potential nightmare for enterprises.

Critics of hyperconnectivity - the "Can't we just unplug once in a while?" crowd - are vocal, and dominate the debate. You don't hear a lot of people countering their complaints with "No, I don't want to unplug, not even once in a while!"

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Mike Elgan

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