Tuesday, November 06, 2007

World Usability Day - ‘Technology is for making life easy’

Anil Gulati

November 8 is being marked as World Usability Day. World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use.

A YEAR and half ago, I bought Onida’s DVD player from an electronic shop in Bhopal. That was it. Since then, I am hardly able to play any movies on it. Instead, a huge amount of time and energy was spend on replacing the parts which conked off within the guarantee period, and then spending money later on to get it repaired. The rest is history.

By the way, it still does not work, and is now an owner’s envy! It is not simply a case of this DVD player. Many a times, technology rather then making our lives easy, makes it difficult. Similarly one day, my friend checked the blood pressure of his father late at night using an electronic BP meter, which showed an extremely high blood pressure, though in reality it was a false alarm. But by then the family had rushed him to hospital in the night, wherein the truth came to light. His meter had failed to deliver. It was a failure of technology. Both these examples tell us how innovation and technology, become a bane rather than a blessing.

With this motto, November 8 is being marked as World Usability Day. This is the third World’s Usability Day (WUD), which will be celebrated globally on November 8, 2007. World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. The overarching theme is “Making Life Easy!” This day is marked to put people at the centre of design, beginning with their needs and wants, and resulting in technology that benefit all of us.

This year, the focus of the World Usability Day 2007 is healthcare. Whether it’s new medical devices or technologies; drug research, approval, or delivery; patient forms or medical record sharing; emergency disaster planning; increasing the functionality of hospitals; or everyday healthcare delivery, EVERYONE is affected by usability in healthcare. Healthcare must be available to everyone around the world.

This holds great importance in developing economies of the world. Health technologies are used at every level of the healthcare system. From the simplest to the most advanced, they form the backbone of the services medicine can offer in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease. As per WHO (World Health Organisation) up to 50 per cent of medical equipments in the world are not in use, either because of a lack of maintenance or spare parts, or because it is too sophisticated, or simply because the health personnel do not know how to use it. This has far-reaching implications for healthcare delivery and invariably represents a deplorable waste of scarce resources.

The continuous technical advances in the field offer a promise of developing potent new weapons against our oldest public health threats, as well as new ones - malaria, genetic deficiencies, pandemic influenza, and AIDS, to name a few - but also put a great deal of pressure on manufacturers, regulatory authorities, and the wider medical community to ensure that products continue to meet the highest standards of quality attainable and are easy to use by humans. Medical technology can improve health, but it must be easy-to-use: error in this arena is costly.

As per the charter listed on www.worldusabilityday.org website, Technology today is too hard to use. In order to humanise a world that uses technology as an infrastructure for education, healthcare, government, communication, entertainment, work, and other areas, we must agree to develop technologies in a way that serves people first. Technology should enhance our lives, not add to our stress or cause danger through poor design or poor quality. It is our duty to ensure that this technology is effective, efficient, satisfying and reliable, and that it is usable by all people.

This is particularly important for people with disabilities because technology can enhance their lives, letting them fully participate in work, social and civic experiences.

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