Is technology ruining our lives?

Technology is meant to make our lives easier, from helping us manage our personal lives and businesses to keeping us in check health wise and monitoring our fitness. But is it always a benefit? Moneybags writer, Danielle van Wyk looks at the pros and cons of technology in various sectors and whether or not it improves our lives.

Tech in our personal space

From Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat and even email, we are the technological generation. Driven by our constant need to stay connected and our love for all that is instant. There is very little we do these days without documenting it by means of some or other tech device.

Pros and Cons: This has contributed to the thinking that we are enslaved to technology, and as a result have compromised on things like privacy and ‘being present’. These addictive tendencies are further entrenched in the millennial generation as we rely on tech for everything from dating, by using apps like Tinder to travelling by means of services like Uber and Taxify. It has without a doubt brought the world to our fingertips, and allowed us to, with very little effort, perform most of our daily tasks.

Tech through the lens of Education

Though some stand divided on whether or not this is a good thing, many environments remain testament to the benefit of technology, education being one of them.

Pros: When we think of “traditional teaching”, it’s often the idea of textbook-centred lessons that spring to mind. “Research in the last few years has found that the highest-performing nations in the world make extensive use of textbooks in their lessons. It is therefore imperative that we combine this effective mode of high-quality curriculum content with the impact of technology in such a way that we still prepare our learners for the demands of the 21st century,” states Dr Lieb Liebenberg, CEO of ITSI and Suzan Prinsloo, marketing manager at ITSI.

“One great benefit that such a seamless integration of teaching with technology offers is that it provides teachers with unprecedented insight into students’ study behaviours and engagement with textbooks and other resources,  irrespective of whether students access these online or offline. Rich dashboards now provide teachers with immediate and daily insights into the time learners spend in textbooks, where they highlight, and which resources they access. This is a powerful tool for teachers and parents alike to manage learning in a way that is simply impossible in an analogue “print only” environment. Furthermore, as user-analytics develops, it will provide a solid research base from where we can analyse the true impact of the lesson plan, material or even methodology,” adds Liebenberg and Prinsloo.

Cons: Though useful, like anything, without the necessary support and know-how it can become more of a hindrance than an aid. Such is the case when “devices and tools are dumped on teachers without the proper training and support, when there is no thought-through of its use in the classroom and without proper curriculum content combined in a meaningful manner. As with everything in life, technology will ruin the classroom if is it is not considered and managed holistically,” says Liebenberg.

Business development at the hands of tech

Pros: Another sector of our lives that tech plays a big role in is business. “There’s no question that technology has enabled business to be far more productive, from how we communicate to the integration of the numerous systems that we work with. Technology has been fundamental to making this process work considerably faster and more efficiently,” says Simon Robinson, Suncircle’s owner.

“If we consider what we have seen at Mediatech Africa, the advances in technology have been second to none in the AV (Audio Visual) and broadcast industries. From a broadcast perspective we can watch what we want, when we want, with the advent of VOD (video on demand) and in the AV world we can have meetings with people on the other side of the world, in a different time zone without having to physically fly there,” Robinson points out.

Cons: The cons of technology in business, however, are around the fact that the human element can be taken out of doing business. “Things just seem less personal, less face to face meetings, body language can never be read over the phone, and the tone of an email conversation can so easily be misunderstood,” says Robsinson. “I feel the biggest downside of technology is the impact that it has had on our personal time and space and the expectation it has created for us to be available 24/7.”

Tech in the Health sector

Society and industry alike have caught on to the use of technology within various health and fitness monitoring models. For example, FitBit is currently a popular product in this sphere. One such organisation that has capitalised on the medical tech movement is Discovery.

Pros: “Our shared-value insurance model incentivises and rewards people for improving their health. The model is grounded in clinical evidence, behavioural economics and actuarial expertise, leveraging technology to enhance the length and quality of members’ lives,” states Precious Nduli, head of technical marketing for Discovery Insure.

She adds: “This model has proven to be successful across our product range and is evidenced in our experience. Increased member engagement in our programmes results in reduced risk from an insurance perspective which drives substantial returns to members through better health, lower mortality and significant financial incentives.”

At Discovery Insure specifically they have been able to leverage technology to improve clients driving behaviour. “Through the Discovery Insure driving app connected to our driving sensor that is attached to the car, clients get immediate feedback on their driving so that they can improve. Clients are then rewarded for their driving behaviour. The telematics technology (sensor) measures aspects such as acceleration, braking, cornering, speeding, distance and cellphone usage. In addition our telematics technology provides a number of safety features such as ImpactAlert, where clients get immediate emergency assistance if we detect a severe impact to their car, weather warnings and a vehicle panic button,” added Nduli.

Discovery highlights that technology does not work in isolation in its business model, but is rather used as a means to drive the right behaviour which ultimately drives positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

“We think technology offers incredible opportunities to solve some of the big challenges facing the country such as poor health and road safety. From an individual client perspective we have seen people improve their health and driving behaviour because of their engagement in programmes such as Vitality and Vitalitydrive. Technology is impacting all aspects of our lives and if used correctly it can definitely improve people’s lives,” Nduli remarks.

Cons: While medical tech advancements are always an overall win for society as a whole and lately there is no limit to the weird and wonderful things being tested and implemented, they are notoriously expensive. This very often bar a majority of the country from access to these innovations and models due to financial constraints.

Across the board technology has been instrumental in development of sectors and industries. Like most things in life sometimes it’s not the mechanism but the use of it. Technology at the end of the day is meant to make our lives simpler, and how we use it will determine whether or not that is achieved.