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Threats and Risks Involved in Using and Relying on Technology

Learn more about the risks of relying on technology for work and social services.
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Organisations and individuals are more productive when they embrace technological advancements. However, this productivity depends on the systems remaining operational and reliable.

Deliberate and Accidental Downtime

Downtime describes situations where an organisation loses some, or all, of its IT systems for a period of time. This could be for any number of accidental or deliberate reasons, including:

  • Cyberattacks
  • Planned maintenance and system upgrades
  • Power failures
  • ISP failures
  • Human errors
  • Natural disasters

Whatever the cause, downtime can have a huge impact on those who rely on the organisation’s services, in the following ways:

  • Loss of productivity — When computer systems are unavailable, there is a huge impact on the productivity of an organisation, costing it time and money. Downtime is estimated to have cost UK businesses 7 billion in 2016.
  • Brand damage and loss of customers — An unavailable service can have a negative impact on the reputation of an organisation. Customers might view downtime as poor service. If they take their dissatisfaction to social media, it can damage the company’s brand.
  • Repair and recovery costs — Systems that are down cost money to repair and recover. In some cases, experts might need to be hired to rectify a problem.
  • Loss of data — If a business loses data, it can have a catastrophic effect on its ability to trade. If you are a consumer who relies on companies to store your data, any loss of data is a breach of trust.

Encourage your students to consider their own reliance on systems. Ask them to consider what would happen if your school lost data. This is something that I have experienced as a teacher. Some time ago, our servers crashed; the backup files had been corrupted for three months. Students lost coursework, teachers lost planning, admin staff lost important files. It took months for our organisation to recover from the disaster.

Mitigating Risks

So how can we mitigate these risks? The National Cyber Security Centre offers the following advice:

  • Back up data regularly — consider the security of ‘cloud services’
  • Protect your organisation from malware
  • Keep smartphones and tablets secure and safe
  • Use strong passwords to protect your data
  • Avoid phishing attacks

You can find out more about these techniques in our course, An introduction to cybersecurity for teachers.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide describes the sociological and economic gap between those with and without access to and competency with technology. As a society, we are eager to take advantage of information technology to improve our lives, but we risk leaving some of the less privileged members of our communities behind.

In recent years, the UK has undertaken the process of leaving the European Union. Part of that process requires current EU citizens residing in the UK to apply for settled status. The process involves an application form and a scan of their passport that can only be done via an app on Android. Even the postal application requires a scan of your passport. The government is assuming that everyone has access to an Android phone or a scanner to complete the application.

When creating new services, we should consider the following key factors that can effect users’ access to technology:

  • Money
  • Location
  • Internet access
  • Training
  • Disability

If we, as a society, work towards narrowing the gap between those with and without access to technology, it can offer many benefits to those affected:

Social mobility — Accessing information and advice through technology can help people improve their socio-economic status.

Democratic freedom — Empowering people with information technology can help improve democratic practices around the world.

Economic equality — Technology offers many ways to earn a living, to save money, and to get financial advice in remote locations.

Representation — If we help more people access technology, more people can help influence it and avoid inequalities arising.

This could be another thought experiment to try with your classes. Have your students think about a person in their life who struggles with the use of technology, whether through access for monetary reasons, or because of their level of competency. Have the students write a sentence or two describing the impact it would have on this person if a major government service were only available online.

Activity

Could you make use of graphical organisers to help students think about this topic from the viewpoint of different stakeholders?

Look at some examples here to get you started.

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Impact of Technology: How To Lead Classroom Discussions

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