A recent study found that having access to ICT while travelling had a positive impact on multi-tasking.
We have constantly heard the older generation criticising the younger ones for continuously gazing on mobile screens. Time changed again and almost each one of us spent a major share of time sharing messages, information and entertainment through various apps on mobile phone.
Be it at a railway station, in a bus, on the street or in a supermarket, the mobile phone is like a sidekick that never leaves.
Mobile phones, like other portable Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), have radically transformed the way we spend our time, and indirectly, our lives.
These portable devices, armed with internet connections, make it possible for us to stay connected 24x7. Thanks to them, no person, place or activity is out of reach. Realising the place ICT holds in people’s lives, many cafes, hotels and restaurants have turned into ‘Wi-Fi enabled’ zones. But, every single day, we travel a lot. So, it was quite a relief when the Indian Railways too decided to leap on to the bandwagon by promising to provide free Wi-Fi at all railway stations.
Commuters were treated to another happy announcement recently when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) declared that it would permit in-flight connectivity in aircrafts, flying above an altitude of 3,000 metres.
The last two developments are especially interesting, for they make it easier for the average commuter to use ICT while on a move.
A recent study conducted by the researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB) found that having access to ICT while travelling had a positive impact on multitasking, and this in turn has an impact on the Value of Time Travel Savings (VTTS).
VTTS is a measure of the efficiency of productivity during the time spent travelling. Arnab Jana, one of the researchers, explains this in simple terms: “Say I have to travel from Kanjurmarg to Fort, travelling by a cab might take slightly more time than a train but because I can access my laptop while travelling in the cab and therefore get a bit of work done, my time spent travelling in the cab is more productive. And so, for this specific trip, as my purpose was to get the work done, my VTTS has increased”.
VTTS is relative for it depends on the perceived benefits derived by an individual commuter during a specific journey.
The findings of this research tell us that policy decisions that enable and encourage the use of ICT during travel can have a positive impact on the lives of people. Melanie Annabelle Joe, Consultant/researcher at MSL, who often utilises her travel time to finish official business, vouches for the benefits of having access to ICT while travelling.
“For me, it adds value to my work as I work with people from different time zones. I can respond to mails and messages while travelling instead of waiting to reach the work place to check my mails. This reduces response time and helps work gets done quickly,” she said.
This opinion is echoed by Rahul Wakude, Associate Director, Digital Marketing, Mirum, who says, “From an employer’s point of view, it is beneficial because an employee can use his commuting time to check mails, or work on an unfinished presentation. Especially if it’s a long journey, there’s a lot of work that you can cover while travelling.”
But counsellor Farah Ladiwala, 29, warns of the dangers that come with so much connectivity.
“While there are positives, there are also negatives that come with so much accessibility. Instant responses are expected. People expect you to be constantly available. Quality time has become a thing of the past because people are glued to their phones. So, while positives do exist, I feel, of late, the negatives are outweighing the positives,” she said.
In the future, access to ICT is only going to increase. But, does this mean we will slam these devices and protest against every policy that enhances access to ICT? Of course not, for while there might be negatives, one cannot turn a blind eye to the positives that come along.
The best way to reap the positives and avoid the negatives is to control our own usage of ICT.
Like Farah says, “One needs to be aware of the amount of time being spent on the phone. Constantly ask yourself if you really need to be on the phone.
Also, if you’re using the phone, use it for things that are useful, like keeping yourself updated, or making a call to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.”
Well, the jury might still be out on the effects of increased access to ICT but in the meantime, what we can do is actively control our use of technology so that it does not end up controlling us.