Technology impacts society

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Jo-An Kamp is a lecturer in ICT and Media Design and the coordinator for Partners in Education at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, and she has had quite the journey before finally becoming an ICT educational expert.

Her Career

“After completing high school, I went to Eindhoven to attend the Design Academy, because I wanted to be a designer for HEMA in the Netherlands. But it turned out differently and I quit after two years.” Following this, she worked at Philips and Atos for one year. Knowing that she wanted to further her studies, a colleague at Philips advised her that she might be better suited for something in Communications and Corporate. Following her colleague’s advice, Jo-An moved to Enschede to study Applied Communication Sciences at the University of Twente, where she graduated within an impressive three and a half years. For the next ten years, she worked as a communications advisor at a number of ICT and software companies where she gained valuable industry experience.

Laughing, Jo-An tells how everyone in her family is an education expert of sorts: “It is like the family ‘curse’ to go into education, and for ten years I said I won’t go there, and that it’s not for me.” It was at her last job at a software engineering company where she was the supervisor for a graduate student that she thought: “Well, who am I kidding here? This is the most fun part of my job, to work with students!” It was at this point that she decided to write a letter to an academic institution, knowing what she wanted to do, and thus Jo-An became a lecturer in ICT and Media Design. “And so the family ‘curse’ finally caught up with me. This was seven years ago, and I am still here, exactly where I want to be.”

Although she always had an interest in science, she didn’t go into an industrial design field due to the technical things she would have had to learn. “I didn’t think I would be good enough for that. Looking back, if I had a daughter, I would say she should just try it and see. It took me a very long time to learn that the field would fit me this well.”

ICT is a connected world

Jo-An first read about RightBrains in Computable Magazine, where an interview with founder Geke Rosier highlighted the inequality in representation of women in IT. At her own institution, this disparity is highlighted further by a representation of only 8% female students against 92% male students. “I think it is still a problem – it’s a problem of identity, it’s a problem of the image of the field. I don’t see any reason why more women should not be in ICT. Certainly, if you view it from the social side, the things that ethics is highlighting about the field and the social and economic impact that they have on each other, these elements of ICT can be very interesting for women too.”

For Jo-An, it’s important to highlight that the ICT field is more than 0’s and 1’s, and logging into computers. “That’s the image that we’re still connected to. It’s a connected world and you have business alignment, so there is a far more social side to what ICT can do for companies. When, for example, you look into Game Design, what can Game Design do for people? Can it benefit society on a social level by helping people, or does it tear society down because people will turn into gaming zombies in the future?” There are so many important questions to ask, and for Jo-An, that goes beyond the programming part of the digital field. “When I look at the working floor where all my students are and at the companies where I have been involved, I see an open environment where knowledge is shared and where people are very open and practical and connected to each other.”

Think Ethics

Jo-An is also an avid researcher, currently undertaking the mammoth task of educating students on the importance of ethics within the digital field. Her research on the impact of technology on humans and society developed from her observation of students who “designed wonderful products without thinking about the further impact of their inventions.”

To remedy this, she helped create a tool called the Technology Impact Cycle Tool, an application that helps students think critically about the impact of technology on humans and society. “You might feel that thinking about the influence of technology on our human world is something for techies or tech-nerds only. But, as technology is influencing our lives in many ways (for instance: who does not have an internet connected, data collecting mobile phone nowadays?) more and more people are involved in these kinds of human-technology interactions.”

As a service to help make an impact on society, the Technology Impact Cycle Tool is free, and available to everyone.

The future

And this is also her main goal as an educator: “I want to grow in research, I want to continue to develop the Technology Impact Cycle Tool and help students to think about ethics, and I want to promote the field of ethics within technology further.” Through interviews and keynotes at digital events, she is already well on her way towards this goal.

The advice she gives to her students who wish to enter a career in the digital industry is that they should follow their own talent: “Follow where your heart drives you to. If you do things because you have to do them, then you might not be successful, but if you do things from your heart because you feel the urge to do so, then I think you will make a success of it.”

Be sure to sign up on the RightBrains platform to meet more digital professionals like Jo-An!