Shiny, happy, IT people

Perhaps that should be 'Shiny, happy, IT users' - according to a new BCS report 'The Information Dividend: Can IT make you happier?'

It says, in part:

'Our analysis of global datasets (and the 35,000 plus respondents analysed in the World Values Survey) shows that IT has a positive impact on life satisfaction even when controlling for income and other factors known to be important in determining well-being. The analysis suggests that IT has an enabling and empowering role leading to a greater sense of freedom and control which in turn leads to greater life satisfaction. If this were a formula it would be expressed as follows: IT INCREASES the Sense of Freedom/Control which IMPROVES Well-being.' (capitals report's own).

Interestingly it indicates that those who seem to benefit most are women in developing nations, those on lower incomes or with fewer educational qualifications. In fact they appear to benefit more from access to IT than those on higher incomes or with higher educational backgrounds.

The report also noted that access to traditional media also has an important role too in helping to create a feeling of autonomy and empowerment - but most of this will be on the web soon anyway, so it's still IT making us all happier.

Of course there are those who are more cynical - Microsoft in their Bing ads for example, portraying people stuck in a kind of white noise of information overload (although their tech is the answer, of course) and Nicholas Carr's contention that as we get more hooked up online we get dimmer. On the other hand perhaps dimmer people are happier...?

The full report is here: http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.35476

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    Miranda Mowbray wrote on 21st May 2010

    The research showing a correlation between IT access and wellbeing (via a correlation with a sense of freedom and control) is encouraging. However, it doesn’t necessarily imply that IT causes wellbeing. The causality might be the other way round: the people who have most freedom and control over their lives are the most likely to get access to IT. I suspect that this is the reason why the correlation is particularly strong for women in developing countries, for example.

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About the author

Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

See all posts by Brian Runciman

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