Author: Sofia Ouhbi

The Puzzle of Sustainable Software

Sustainability is a wicked problem!” they say, and sustainable software is no exception. Sustainable software is a term that has been buzzing in the corridors of academia and among tech practitioners, yet its definition remains elusive. The discourse among software engineers and HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) communities often finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the nuances of what it truly means to develop software that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

At its core, sustainable software echoes the foundational pillars of sustainable development laid out by the United Nations: environmental, social, and economic considerations. However, within these broad categories lie myriad complexities and diverging viewpoints. Some researchers narrow their focus to these three core dimensions, while others advocate for the inclusion of individual and technical dimensions, recognising the intricate interplay of technology with sustainability and its impact on the individual.

The absence of a standardized assessment method further complicates matters. This absence weighs heavily as we seek to unravel the impact of sustainable software on end-users and stakeholders alike. In a world where the digital footprint of the ICT sector looms large, the drumbeat for integrating sustainability principles into software design grows louder by the minute.

To rise to this challenge, we must challenge the status quo, question our assumptions, and forge a new path forward—one that balances technological advancement with environmental impact, social responsibility, and economic viability. Only through such concerted efforts can we hope to realise the true potential of sustainable software and its transformative impact on the world we inhabit.

Hybrid Work: Software Engineering Students’ Perspective

Hybrid work models have become the new norm in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, reshaping how we approach productivity and collaboration. As hybrid work models continue to shape the modern workforce, understanding their impact on productivity is paramount. 

Hybrid work models combine remote and in-person work, creating a unique set of challenges, particularly in software development projects. In software development, where the demand for faster, higher-quality output is constant, finding solutions within resource constraints becomes imperative.

Virtual group meeting

“Productivity Paranoia” in Hybrid Work

The impact of hybrid work on productivity has garnered attention in various sectors. In a recent survey conducted by Microsoft involving 20,006 global knowledge workers, a concerning trend emerged. Managers and team leaders expressed “productivity paranoia” with only a mere 12% of respondents indicating full confidence in their team’s productivity within hybrid work settings. This phenomenon underscores the need for a closer examination of productivity in hybrid work scenarios, including those within software engineering education.

The Significance for Software Engineering Students

For software engineering students, productivity plays an important role in their academic and future professional success. While productivity has been studied extensively in various contexts, there’s a gap in research specific to software engineering education. To address this, our study [1], conducted in Portugal and Sweden examined the perspectives of seventy-seven software engineering university students. Most of these students, having experienced hybrid work, expressed a preference for continuing this mode of work in future group projects.

Since the majority of software engineering students favor the hybrid work model, our intention is to conduct a more in-depth study. We aim to delve deeper into understanding the specific factors that contribute to perceived productivity in hybrid work environments. This research will explore ways to optimise productivity in this setting, helping students and organisations make the most of the hybrid work mode.

[1] S. Ouhbi and N. Pombo. “Hybrid work provides the best of both worlds” Software Engineering Students’ Perception of Group Work in Different Work Settings. In the 26th International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning, ICL 2023, pp 1943-1954.

Exploring the Future of Healthcare: Insights from MIE’2023 and VITALIS 2023

The Medical Informatics Europe 2023 (MIE’2023) conference, held under the theme “Caring is Sharing – Exploiting Value in Data for Health and Innovation,” alongside the renowned VITALIS 2023, Scandinavia’s largest eHealth conference, created a stage where experts gathered to delve into the latest advancements and challenges in healthcare. The buzz around AI in healthcare was undeniable, emphasizing the need for regulation while recognizing its immense potential. Striking the delicate balance between innovation and patient safety became a key focal point, highlighting the importance of establishing robust frameworks and guidelines for AI deployment in healthcare settings.

Sweden, with its world-class healthcare and research institutions, thriving industry, and vibrant startup scene, served as the perfect backdrop for MIE’2023 and VITALIS 2023. Drawing decision makers, IT managers, researchers, and care administrators from various sectors, VITALIS provided a fertile ground for networking and collaboration among the different stakeholders in the field. This convergence of industry professionals from healthcare organizations, municipalities, county councils, and authorities facilitated invaluable connections and knowledge exchange.

The opening keynote at VITALIS was a highlight of the event, featuring influential speakers who offered compelling insights into the future of healthcare. Jakob Forssmed, Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health, stressed the significance of leveraging data and digital solutions to transform healthcare. David Novillo Ortiz from the World Health Organization shared noteworthy initiatives utilizing data and digital technologies. Tom Lawry, an AI expert, captivated the audience with his exploration of AI’s transformative potential in healthcare. The discussions revolved around the need for responsible implementation and regulation, keeping patient welfare at the forefront.

Innovative research on patients’ use of medical records online took center stage during the conferences, shedding light on the impact of patient-accessible electronic health records (PAEHR). A notable session led by Prof. Åsa Cajander focused on the effects of PAEHR on diverse patient groups, particularly in psychiatric and somatic care. The session underscored the necessity for further research on user experiences and perceptions, highlighting the complexities and considerations surrounding the implementation and impact of PAEHR in different healthcare contexts.

MIE’2023 and VITALIS 2023 emphasized the pivotal role of data, AI, and patient access in reshaping the healthcare landscape. These conferences provided an engaging platform for decision-makers, IT managers, researchers, and care administrators to collaborate, fostering innovation and knowledge-sharing. The seminars on AI adoption in healthcare emphasized the importance of responsible implementation, while presentations on patient access to medical records illuminated the benefits and challenges associated with PAEHR. The collective efforts of the healthcare community, as highlighted during these events, hold the potential to revolutionize patient outcomes and shape a future where innovation and compassion go hand in hand.

Empowering People with Anxiety: Biofeedback-based Connected Health Interventions

In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety has become a prevalent and concerning issue affecting individuals of all ages. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this problem, with feelings of fear, worry, and uncertainty becoming more common. As we strive to find effective interventions for anxiety, the emerging field of connected health, combined with biofeedback techniques, holds great promise.

Understanding Anxiety
Anxiety, a complex interplay of psychological and physiological factors, manifests as a state of fear, uneasiness, and nervousness. It is a natural response to stress, serving as a signal of potential danger. However, when anxiety becomes persistent and overwhelming, it may indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. These disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, can significantly impact a person’s well-being and quality of life.

A person suffering from anxiety

The Rise of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders have been on the rise globally, and Sweden is no exception. Self-reported anxiety and nervousness have witnessed an 11% increase in the country between 2011 and 2021. Women tend to be more affected than men across all age groups. The contributing factors to anxiety disorders are multifaceted, including difficult life experiences, environmental influences, health behaviors, and various physical factors such as genetics and brain chemistry.

Connected Health Interventions for Anxiety
Connected health, the integration of information communication technology into healthcare, offers innovative solutions for managing anxiety. Among the various digital interventions, biofeedback stands out as a non-pharmacological and non-invasive approach. Biofeedback leverages the measurement of physiological changes associated with psychological states, enabling individuals to monitor and control their bodily functions influenced by anxiety.

Advantages of Biofeedback
Technological advancements have made biofeedback more accessible, affordable, and user-friendly. It allows individuals to gain awareness and insight into their physiological changes, empowering them to better regulate their mental states. Biofeedback can help individuals recognize internal states linked to arousal and relaxation, fostering a sense of self-efficacy and control. By addressing both psychological and physiological symptoms, biofeedback holds immense potential in anxiety detection and treatment.

Types of Biofeedback and Their Applications
Biofeedback utilizes various sources of biodata, including respiration, brain activity (neurofeedback), muscle tension, skin conductance, temperature, and heart rate variability. Our systematic literature review has revealed that biofeedback interventions for anxiety primarily leverage two types of feedback: modifications to user interface and experience or visual presentations of physiological changes. Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a powerful tool, enhancing the efficacy of biofeedback interventions by providing immersive exposure therapy experiences. Serious games coupled with biofeedback have also shown promising results, influencing behavior and facilitating learning.

Biofeedback is often combined with relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation. These practices have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing anxiety and stress. In biofeedback-based interventions, individuals receive real-time feedback on their physiological measurements, fostering a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection. Music therapy, coupled with biofeedback, has also yielded positive outcomes, regulating both physical and mental health.

The Road Ahead
As we delve deeper into the realm of biofeedback-based connected health interventions for anxiety, ongoing research and development are crucial. Further exploration of different sensors, treatment techniques, and physiological data collection methods will enhance the efficacy and accessibility of these interventions. Collaborations between researchers, clinicians, and technology experts hold the potential to transform anxiety management and empower individuals to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

Reference: Alneyadi, M., Drissi, N., Almeqbaali, M., and Ouhbi, S. (2021). Biofeedback-based Connected Mental Health Interventions for Anxiety: Systematic Literature Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 9(4): e26038, doi: 10.2196/26038