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What computers did to our productivity

There are more than 1 billion PCs in use worldwide, and headed to 2 billion by 2014, according to Gartner. It's a staggering number, particularly when you think back to 1987 when there were fewer than 37.5 million. That's according to information in the Inmagic newsletter archive from summer 1990.

In this issue, Dr. Eric Boehm, President of the International School of Information Management in Santa Barbara, discussed computer usage and posed a survey about the impact of PCs on productivity. One of the questions addressed the increase in efficiency for information retrieval through computer usage.

He notes that for information research purposes, what would take 40 hours for a manual search in the library would take 8 minutes of online searching via a desktop -- and that was with dial-up!

I am old enough to remember using the Encyclopedia Britannica for class reports (but young enough to never have hand-scribed a college essay). You do the math. Suffice to say it is easy to take for granted the ease and speed at which we can find and access information.

Now more than ever, we need to spend less time searching for corporate knowledge, complete projects faster, and reduce the risk of relying on inaccurate information. While we are better equipped to find information, we are not immune to inefficiencies, and we certainly haven't reached our knowledge and information potential.

As Dr. Boehm states, "As a society we are well on our way to becoming computer literate, but we are still far from being information literate. A link must be made between the two literacies to provide capabilities in regard to online search for information via computer and modem."

Today, we are fine-tuning our ability to access to all kinds of information and make it even more relevant, easy, fast, and impactful. And we're continuing to see and learn how social technologies are accelerating our progress toward this goal. With these tools becoming increasingly ingrained in the fabric of our knowledge management systems and processes, it's hard to imagine a world when we didn't have the ability to share, edit, enhance, and collaborate on knowledge on the fly.

This quote contributed by the president of an online search service captures this notion well:

"Using a computer without online retrieval of information (from hundreds of databases) is like driving a race car without ever going above 10 m.p.h - it just doesn't make sense."

Likewise, using a knowledge management system that doesn't bring together content, people, and tools to support corporate objectives doesn't make sense. We've realized and continue to realize the value in sharing and enhancing the quality of knowledge, and using social technology to facilitate that.

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