Tag Archives: computers

People of Ability

Group of business people assembling jigsaw puzzleIn my volunteer positions I have worked with youth of different abilities, often called disabilities. These youth may be mentally, physically, or emotionally disabled. Despite these disabilities, they contribute greatly in various ways and have taught me many lessons that I carry with me. In this blog post I will highlight some stories of people with disabilities who contribute to the field of information technology.

Meticulon Consulting

I have worked with people on the autism spectrum who are excellent programmers. They are methodical, meticulous, and often very creative. They like routine work and excel at logic challenges such as coding. In a recent article, Meticulon Consulting, a Canadian technology firm, was highlighted for hiring people with autism. Their experiences were the same as mine. The people they hired were meticulous, hard working, and loyal to the firm. Meticulon co-founder Garth Johnson makes the point that he is not hiring people with disabilities out of sympathy but because it makes good business sense. Johnson said, “I’m not interested in this as a charity. If we can’t prove business value, then I don’t view it as sustainable for our employees, either our typically enabled or our people with autism.” Other companies cited in the article are coming to the same realization. It makes good business sense to hire people with disabilities.


The German software giant SAP shares that experience. Their goal is to have one percent of their workforce from the autism community by 2020. This goal came out of a project with the Autism Society of India after SAP programmers created software to help children with autism communicate better. The project was successful so the employees proposed a pilot project to hire adults with autism. SAP recognized the fact that these new employees come with a different perspective and a fresh set of eyes. Jose Velasco, a SAP executive and head of the Autism At Work program said, “There is a skill set people on the spectrum are bringing that has business value.”

Physical Disabilities

In our AIM Program course, Information Systems and Management, we talk about the stereotype of technology workers who are more comfortable with computers than with people. Whether the stereotype is valid or not, it has nothing to do with physical abilities. I have worked with people with hearing or vision impairments or other disabilities who love technology as much as I do. An employer may need to make some accommodations for them, but in my experience it is worth the effort; they bring a rich skillset and unique perspective to a project or an organization.


I believe that we need contributions from people of all abilities in order to make a strong and complete team. We all bring different skills and experiences to our work so the fact that we don’t all think alike or move the same should not make a difference. I would like to hear about your experiences working with people with different abilities. Are there benefits or drawbacks? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

How Much Privacy?

Eye peering through computer codeI read an article recently in the MIT Technology Review titled “Laws and Ethics Can’t Keep Pace with Technology”. It helped me to understand that laws naturally follow our actions and experiments and there can sometimes be a lag between the action and the law. As technology development cycles become shorter, I expect the lag to become greater as we wrestle with exactly what needs to be regulated and in what form. With that in mind, I started thinking about privacy and security. Specifically, what message are we sending to our lawmakers about privacy? Do our words match our actions? Are we asking for laws that we are not truly passionate about, at least in deed?


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996 in response to a need to protect health information and the need to transport patient information securely from doctor to doctor. Within the HIPAA legislation, there is a privacy rule and a security rule. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS):

The Privacy Rule establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information. The Security Rule establishes a national set of security standards for protecting certain health information that is held or transferred in electronic form.

The Security Rule operationalizes the Privacy Rule and sets standards for maintaining and transporting patient information. This is a case where a privacy need was met but it did not come to fruition until there were some lapses of security surrounding patient information. It took a strong call to action before standards were formulated and established.

Current Privacy Debate

There are some serious lapses currently in how we handle customer or personally identifiable information (PII), such as credit card and social security numbers. I am thinking of TJX and the security lapse that lasted from mid-2005 to December 2006. It is estimated that 47.5 million customer records were stolen. More recently was the Target security breach, which left customer information vulnerable to theft. Target announced that they are moving to a more secure “chip and pin” card system, but this is of little consequence to those Target customers that have already been affected. The barn door is open and the cows are out. When breaches such as this happen, we are all outraged and there is a temporary furor, but then we go back to using the same card, downloading unsecure apps and shopping at unsecure websites. Are we really angry enough to ask for laws calling for stronger protection of our personal information? What if it inconveniences us? What if we could no longer find our best friend whose smart phone is constantly broadcasting their geolocation?

The Flip Side

I believe that there is a lot of complacency and apathy today in terms of privacy and security. There are a lot of apps that gather our personal information. They can and do so because we allow and enable them. While there is a growing number of people concerned about their privacy and security, flawed applications and flawed financial cards have become a way of doing business. It is becoming difficult to find alternate paths to work in a secure world. Although flawed applications and flawed financial cards have become a way of doing business, there are a growing number of people who are concerned about their privacy and security.


I don’t think that new laws are necessarily the best way to generate a sense of responsibility for our own security, but we need to stand up and vote with our feet and our pocketbooks to say, “I choose to keep my personal information private, and I will only deal with others that will do the same”. Let me know your thoughts.

About Kelly BrownAuthor Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Trends in Higher Education

Woman and child with laptopI have been talking with people this last week about education and their needs. Specifically, I have been thinking about trends in education. How are our needs changing, and is the education world changing fast enough to meet those needs? Here are some current trends that I think we need to be talking about and that need to be addressed.

Education for Skills

Because of the recent recession, it is even more imperative that students are trained for tangible and applicable skills. Often, college is seen as a time for exploring career options, but that can be a very pricey journey, given the current tuition rates. I would like to suggest a series of low-price courses at the beginning of the academic pursuit that allow students to briefly explore different career options. Such an approach would ensure that the bulk of college experience is applied to preparing for a career of the student’s choice. This is one way to minimize the time spent in college and money spent on the education journey.

Rising Tuition

Rising tuition over the last several years has brought about two fundamental shifts. First of all, students are borrowing more to complete their education, which means they are saddled with debt. Tuition hikes are also pushing students who are unwilling, or unable to take on that debt, out of the college experience. This makes it even more important that we educate for skills so that the learning is directly applicable to a vocation. In the end, it is employers who will dictate what skills and qualifications they expect to see in a prospective hire, which may include undergraduate, graduate, or even less expensive vocational or certification training. Employers need to be clear about their preferences and expectations so students can make their choices accordingly. This clarity will help students avoid costly mistakes by being overeducated or overqualified.

Changing Demographics

We are currently going through a generational shift as baby boomers are starting to retire and the next two generations are working their way up or into the workforce. The next generations do not necessarily have the same learning styles or expectations as their parents; they are more computer savvy and more comfortable learning outside of a traditional classroom. Are we changing our delivery methods to accommodate them or are we still clinging to the same educational models used in ancient Greece? I am suggesting that we may have outlived those models and need to be responsive to other methods of learning.

Changing Technology

With the advent of pervasive computing, the Internet, and mobile technologies, there are so many more methods available to deliver quality education. I think that employing a combination of these will help drive down the cost of education in the future. It is possible that students can continue to live in their hometown while pursuing an education from a remote college. Will that reduce their academic experience or will it prepare them that much more for an increasingly distributed work environment?


The purpose of this post is to get us thinking about the business of academia and question whether we are doing all that we can to deliver the promise of a first rate education to as many students as possible. Are we being creative enough in developing options or are we clinging to models that are becoming irrelevant and obsolete? Do you feel that you are prepared for our changing professional world? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.