Leveraging IT to Expand the Economy

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Where IT Will Be in Five Years

A recent survey suggests IT staff will need to combine mobile and cloud computing with business knowledge to create unique, compelling value for their organizations.

For far too long now the dominant theme surrounding IT has been how to save money. In these troubled economic times this is a noble goal. But in the grand scheme of things, reducing the IT budget by 10 percent year over year is a tactical exercise. The real value in investing in IT should be on how to leverage IT to create new businesses and processes that ultimately serve to expand the economy.

Unfortunately, the IT community as a whole has taken its eye off that particular ball. About the only vendor doing anything these days in that regard is IBM under the auspices of its Smarter Planet campaign. To that end, the company today named Streetline, a company that uses sensors to help people locate the least expensive parking spot near their car, as the IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.

That may not seem like a particular profound application of IT technology. But when you think about how much time and gas is wasted looking for parking spots, suddenly the value becomes apparent. Obviously, Streetline won't make the world a better place in and of itself, but it does show what can be done with just a little innovation.

According to Mark Hanny, vice president of alliance for IBM developer relations, IBM is actively recruiting promising startup companies that leverage its technologies to create applications that expand the use of IT. In fact, out the 1,500 startup companies that IBM has worked with thus far, IBM has already seen fit to actually acquire 75 of them.

Alas, in terms of helping drive the expansion of IT usage, the rest of the industry appears to be sitting on its collective behind. That's doubly unfortunate because by helping to expand the usage of IT, they could also be expanding the number of available IT jobs.

We can't count on government spending to hold up the economy; that's going to require some real business innovation. And in this day and age, that innovation is going to require some real IT expertise. So instead of spending all our time thinking about how to save a nickel, maybe the time has come to once again start thinking about how to make an actual dollar.

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