ITaaU original plan

ITaaU set out with the following vision, aims and objectives

Original vision for ITaaU

Smart phone apps have shown that there is a demand for easy-to-use IT functions, yet the potential scope and impact of easy to use IT is much greater. This network will promote research into providing access to a wider range of IT facilities that are simple to use, while users need know only that these services are available and safe to use, not where they come from and how they are provided. However, it is not enough to provide the services and the means of using them securely. The network will develop the understanding of the human aspects of such services: the barriers, perceived as well as real, that inhibit new users of the services. We rely implicitly on other things, such as our cars and our electricity supply, so a major Network facet will be in the area of “how can we encourage the same level of trust in IT services”; the network will tackle the the issues from a user perspective.

An analogy with the traditional utilities of Power and Water is interesting. With Water we do care about the actual product as we do in part consume it directly! We also use it to drive a range of other processes. With electricity, while we do measure the amount we consume, most people don’t actually think in terms of the current flowing though their mains circuits but in terms of boiling the kettle or switch on the TV – it is the service that the power enables that we focus on (at least until the power goes out). For IT this is even more true; for almost all the time we are not concerned with the infrastructure but with the services that this infrastructure can provide. Therefore there will be a strong focus in the network on such the provision of such services and also their operational management protocols.

IT drives and is driven by technology, inescapably hardware is also IT and that it is now commoditised and therefore utilitarian and has the capability to alter dramatically the way people interact with the space around them by merging physical and digital spaces in a cost effective manner. Smart spaces, responsive environments, and location dependent services can fundamentally alter interactions between people as well as the space around them.

These services depend at their heart on information and data. The ITaaU Network+ will therefore interact closely with governmental and research council initiatives on Open Data, and more generally on use and re-use of data, made feasible by the adoption of open and linked data standards, and new services which can be developed as more data becomes available.

Planned impact

The DE Challenge Area IT as a Utility Network+ will have direct impact with the wider public, media and education. It lies at the heart of the way the all of us will predominately interact with IT systems. In some ways the greatest success of the research in the network area will be to make the explicit notion of IT almost invisible and certainly transparent. As such it will transform many aspects of the Digital Economy theme.

The proposed range of activities will bring different research communities and researchers with different skills together in a targeted manner as well as providing the wider community forum for the coordination with other related activities. Taken together with the research opportunities afforded by the Network funding, this will create a beacon for how users and researchers can interact to set an agenda for IT to have an even more wide ranging impact on society than that affected by the provision of the traditional utilities of water and power.

The impact strategy for the ITaaU Network+ is embedded into the network activities themselves: every activity within the network will have demonstrable outputs and impact. The project is designed to impact in a way that best fits the digital environment to which it responds. By brining together not only the researchers but also representatives of many existing projects and groups, we have the potential to create a powerful information and policy group that will inform future developments in for example government and research council policy on funding.

Our network will contribute towards evidence based policy-making and influencing public policies and legislation at a local, regional, national and international level in their requirements and use of Utility IT and Computing for the provision of applications and services to business, government and the consumer. We will pay attention to the needs of bridging the urban rural divide in the design and deployment of novel solutions (e.g. on demand services for applications in the cloud) to ensure that the marginalised and vulnerable in society do not become disenfranchised from the digital economy. Another important community will be those involved in receiving and delivering education and training (at all levels) an area in which ITaaU has significant potential to make radical changes and for which the usability challenges of the network research will be very significant.

The pilot projects arm of the network activities will act a demonstrators to show the public and government what is possible and inspire the developments in this area, both with academic and industrial concerns, placing the users at the centre of activities and showing that the science fiction is now (or can be) very much science fact, when it comes to IT.

The ITaaU Network has the potential to become the face of the Open Data movement, after all, while the public can appreciate that having data might be useful, it is actually the applications and services built on such data that they will really consume – with out usable, safe and trusted IT utilities much of the potential of open data will never be achieved. The ITaaU network will deliver considerable impact in this area.