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Exploring the Impact of AI on IT Professional Competencies

In a world shaped by Artificial Intelligence (AI), understanding its impact on the workforce, particularly on early adopters in the Information Technology (IT) sector, has become crucial. A working group comprising experts from diverse international institutions with Niklas, Andreas and Åsa from the HTO group has embarked on a research study to explore this very subject. This blog post presents the goals, methodology, and expected outcomes of this working group initiative.

The working group, consisting of researchers from New Zealand, Sweden, Scotland, and beyond, aims to understand how AI technologies impact the work engagement of IT professionals and what this means for future computing students. We are working in a distributed team with the study during the spring, and then meet in Milan for the ITiCSE conference in July.

Goals of the Working Group

The primary objective of the working group is to explore the relationship between AI integration and work engagement among IT professionals. By analyzing how AI influences socio-technical dynamics and professional competencies, the group seeks to uncover the implications for both current professionals and computing students who are the future workforce. The research questions guiding this study include:

  1. How does AI influence work engagement for IT professionals?
  2. How does AI affect the socio-technical work dynamics for IT professionals?
  3. What are the implications of integrating AI on the acquisition and enhancement of professional competencies and the learning processes of IT professionals?

Methodology

To achieve its goals, the working group employs a methodological framework. This involves analyzing a rich dataset of around 70 interview transcripts from IT professionals across various countries. The study combines a multi-vocal literature review and qualitative research methods, including thematic analysis.

The literature review spans work engagement, automation, and motivation within the IT sector, while the thematic analysis focuses on identifying emerging trends and challenges faced by IT professionals in the context of AI integration. The findings from this research will inform future curriculum design and assessment methods in computing education, ensuring they align with the evolving demands of the industry.

Expected Deliverables

The working group’s findings will offer a global perspective on the new competencies required by IT professionals in an AI-driven environment. The final report will provide empirical insights that can guide policy-making, curriculum development, and assessment strategies for AI-integrated educational programs. These insights are expected to be valuable for educational institutions, policy-makers, and industry stakeholders aiming to prepare the future workforce for the challenges and opportunities presented by AI technologies.

Stay tuned for more updates as the working group progresses with this study, contributing knowledge to the field of computing education and professional development.

Generativ AI i IT-industrin och högre utbildning: Möjligheter och utmaningar

Hej! Jag heter Niklas Humble och är ny Postdoc på Uppsala universitet och i forskargruppen HTO. Under de närmsta 2 åren så kommer jag att jobba i ett forskningsprojekt som studerar effekten och användning av nya AI verktyg (till exempel generativ AI) inom IT-industrin och högre utbildning. Nedan berättar jag lite kort om projektet och den pågående forskningen.

Artificiell intelligens (AI) påverkar hur vi arbetar och hur vi lär oss. Generativ AI, en gren av AI som fokuserar på att generera nya data, väcker frågor om både möjligheter och utmaningar inom arbetsliv och utbildning.

Flera från forskargruppen HTO är involverade i ett forskningsprojekt där användningen och effekterna av AI i IT-industrin och högre utbildning studeras. I projektet så kommer vi att belysa perspektiv från IT-professionella, studenter och universitetslärare för att få en djupare förståelse av hur AI kan påverka, och redan påverkar, våra yrkesliv.

Genom detta projekt hoppas vi bland annat kunna:
• Identifiera viktiga användningsområden för generativ AI i IT-industrin och högre utbildning.
• Analysera effekterna av generativ AI på t.ex. produktivitet, kreativitet, innovation och lärande.
• Utveckla riktlinjer och rekommendationer för användning av generativ AI i arbetslivet och utbildning.
• Bidra till diskussionen om etiskt förhållningssätt i relation till generativ AI.

I skrivande stund så arbetar vi med en större studie där IT-professionella från flera olika länder intervjuas om deras användning av och syn på AI i arbetslivet. Resultaten planeras att publiceras på vetenskapliga konferenser och i vetenskapliga journaler under det kommande året.

Hör av dig om du vill veta mer!

(Bild genererad av Microsoft Copilot med instruktioner att illustrera en möjlig framtid med AI på arbetsmarknaden)

AROAs referensgruppsmöte

Den 9e april hade vi ett mycket trevligt referensgruppsmöte i AROA-projektet. Detta tillfälle användes för att presentera vad som hänt i projektet men också för att få återkoppling och diskutera våra idéer med branschexperter. Under förmiddagen introducerade Åsa Cajander dagen och sedan diskuterade vi några begrepp och hur de skulle kunna appliceras på våra tre domäner (jordbruk, tåg och IT). Jessica Lindblom använde sig främst av sitt forskningsområde lantbruket och passade på att visa bilder från olika besök på jordbruk som använder sig mycket av automatiserad och AI-baserad teknik. Hon visade även bilder på oss när vi utstyrda i overaller och gummistövlar besökte Lövsta, där SLU bedriver delar av sin lantbruksforskning. Därefter följde en kort presentation och diskussion om digitalt arbetsengagemang och vad som egentligen kan tänkas ingå i det begreppet. Forskningen är inte särskilt entydig och föreslår en rad olika definitioner, där många snarare fokuserar brett på arbetsglädje och tillfredsställelse än engagemang. En början på en definition utgår från att digitalt arbetsengagemang är motsatsen till digital stress (s.k. teknostress). En annan utgångspunkt är självbestämmandeteorin (self-determination theory) som fokuserar på motivation och drivkrafter. Ytterligare några teorier och möjligheter diskuterades.

Efter lunch introducerade Maria Normark kort begreppen deskilling och reskilling som syftar till att belysa vilken typ av kompetens man tappar vid införandet av ytterligare automation och AI-lösningar, men också vilka kompetenser man kommer att behöva tillföra. En viktig diskussion under denna session handlade om vad vi menar med AI eftersom det kan innebära väldigt olika saker. Ett första försök att definiera en skala satte kontrollerande och styrande AI i ena änden och guidande AI i andra änden. Med kontrollerande AI tänker vi oss system som helt styr arbetsflöden samt kontrollerar yrkesverksammas aktiviteter medan guidande AI ger tips och förslag men varken är obligatoriska eller nödvändiga att anpassa sig efter.

Slutligen hade vi en paneldiskussion där framtiden ventilerades och vi bland annat lyfte frågan: hur vill vi att framtiden ska vara och vad missar vi i de perspektiven vi har diskuterat? Sammanfattningsvis var mötet mycket berikande och vi ser fram emot nästa till hösten.

Grisen är uppfinningarnas moder – En recension av ett AI-transkriptionsprogram, av en programmeringsanalfabet.

Bild genererad via DALL-E.

I projektet jag är del av har vi genomfört runt 30 intervjuer med olika intressenter inom Sveriges flygplatsvärld för att skapa förståelse kring införandet av teknologi på flygplatser och hur teknologin påverkar markpersonalens arbetsmiljö. För att transkribera intervjuerna har vi använt Open AIs Whisper, som funkar på det viset att man lägger in sin ljudfil i ett program och så spottar programmet ut en textfil med transkriptionen.

Generellt fungerade systemet väldigt bra och minskade tiden som krävdes för att transkribera, men viss handpåläggning krävdes definitivt, eftersom det fanns ett antal återkommande problem som är värda att uppmärksamma. Med det sagt ska det sägas att det finns olika versioner som garanterat påverkar outputen, samt att systemet säkert är bättre på engelska än svenska, men här måste jag erkänna att det inte var jag utan min eminenta kollega Andreas Bergqvist som installerade programmet och bland annat säkerställde att det gick att köra programmet lokalt. Följande recension är skriven av en hobbylingvist och hopplös programmeringsanalfabet som inte har full koll på de tekniska specifikationerna utan bara vill ha ett användbart verktyg.

Först och främst kan det av olika skäl bli väldigt knasiga ord som Whisper föreslår. Ofta var det på grund av att ljudkvalitén i sig var dålig, men även när det kommer till väldigt specifika ord, specifikt till flygbranschen exempelvis, kunde programmet få problem. Amsterdams flygplats Schiphol blev vid flera tillfällen fel då Whisper föreslog att det istället skulle vara ”Skimpol” eller ”Skippholm”, medan ”incheckningsdiskar” kunde bli ”inskräckningsdiskar” och i de flesta fallen lades ett ”r” till i ord som ”banrapporteringssystem” till att bli ”barnrapporteringssystem”.

Ytterligare exempel på sådana enkla felidentifieringar kom ofta i talesätt. ”Goddag yxskaft” blev ”goda ytskaft”, ”Dackefejden” blev ”Daccafaden” och den bästa lilla detaljen av alla – när en respondent sa ”krisen är uppfinningarnas moder” identifierades ”krisen” som ”grisen” och därmed tillkom bilden ovan och min ambition att etablera ”grisen är uppfinningarnas moder” som talesätt. Det förekom även fel som att programmet kunde identifiera helt fel pronomen, exempelvis när respondenten ytterst tydligt sa ”vi” kunde det tolkas som ”jag”. Ordklassen är uppenbarligen korrekt identifierad, men ljudet är uppenbarligen helt annorlunda. Enstaka gånger förekom även fel som att ”vi har endast X” identifierades som ”vi har inte X”, vilket såklart blir problematiskt.

Därutöver tillkom problem som jag antar är inbyggda med en viss medvetenhet. Whisper har till synes ett arbetsminne-liknande sätt att arbeta. Exempelvis, när en respondent på kort tid sa att hen hade haft tre olika ”tjänster” tolkades det tre gånger om som ”chanser”. Första ”tjänst” kan absolut tolkas som ”chans”, men de övriga två lät desto mindre som ”chans”. Så i dess ”arbetsminne” verkar programmet ha identifierat ett ljud som en viss textsträng och identifierade följande liknande ljud som samma textsträng, i ett slags ”hellre konsekvent oavsett rätt än inkonsekvent”- resonemang.

Det som däremot fascinerade mig, utöver den generella precisionen, var de fantastiska sammansatta ord Whisper lyckades få till. ”Arbetsmiljökonsekvensanalys”, ”standardiseringskommissioner”, ”toalettservicechecklista”, och även svengelska sammansatta ord som ”safetychef” var några höjdpunkter inom kategorin sammansatta ord.

Det största problemet med programmet är att vissa osäkerheter och tillägg inte tas med. Det var oftast bara det som identifieras som centralbudskapet som inkluderades. Små uppbackningsord som ”mm”, stakningar som ”eh”, och utfyllnadsord som ”liksom” var ytterst sällan med. Mer påtagligt inkluderades inte det understreckade i följande utdrag: En person pratade om en ”Utbildning som är så jävla lång och så jävla tråkig”, en annan sa att säkerhet ”Det är ju vår högsta prioritet. Det är alltid det som är först.” och en annan menade på att ”Yttersta ansvaret har ju min chef för arbetsmiljö.” Det behöver inte vara fundamentalt väsensskilt från vad respondenten sa, men nyanser och detaljer försvinner.

Så varför spelar alla dessa exemplen som jag har beskrivit roll? Här finns det saker att säga om replikerbarhet och vetenskaplig noggrannhet, men framför allt kan det leda till problem om användare förlitar sig på mycket på program som detta. Bara för att det kan visa upp fantastiska resultat på det stora hela så innebär det inte att systemet till minsta detalj har kapaciteten att producera helt korrekta resultat. Överlag är Whisper ett intressant och hjälpsamt verktyg för att öka hastigheten i transkriptionsmomentet, men än så länge kvarstår behovet för mänsklig handpåläggning, för det finns alltid risk att det är en liten gris som gömmer sig någonstans i myllret av tvärsäkra formuleringar.

Krusenberg Writing Retreat: A Haven for Academic Minds

This past week, our HTO research group had the pleasure of having a Writing Retreat at Krusenberg Herrgård, an ideal setting to focus and foster our academic writing projects. Our group of fifteen members gathered with the goal of advancing our individual and collaborative research papers in a distraction-free environment.

Krusenberg Manor, with its peaceful surroundings and comfortable amenities, proved to be an excellent choice for our retreat. The calm atmosphere of the manor allowed us to concentrate fully on our work without the usual interruptions of a busy university setting.

The combination of lots of writing time, supportive group dynamics, and relaxing breaks made for a highly effective retreat. We all left with substantial progress on our academic work, refreshed and ready to continue our research with renewed vigor.

Insights from the FoU Program Conference: Exploring the Impact of Robots, Automation and AI on Work Environments

Last week, we had the privilege of attending the Research and Innovation Program Conference organized by AFA Försäkring. The focus was on understanding how automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) affect work environments. It was an insightful event where we got to learn from various projects, including our own Tara and Arora initiatives. The blog post photo captures a snapshot from our field visits during the TARA project.

Speakers such as Erik Billing from the University of Skövde, Kristina Palm from Karolinska University, and Eva Lindell from Mälardalen University shared their research findings and insights on how automation is changing the way we work. They discussed topics like how automation impacts job roles, the challenges of integrating new technologies into workplaces, and the importance of considering human well-being in the midst of technological advancements.

The conference emphasized the need to bridge the gap between research and practice. It highlighted the importance of finding practical solutions that benefit both workers and organizations. There was also discussion about the future of work and how we can prepare for the changes brought about by automation and AI.

Overall, the conference provided a valuable opportunity to learn, share ideas, and collaborate with others in the field. We left feeling inspired and motivated to continue our research and contribute to the ongoing conversation about the future of work in an increasingly automated world.

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.

Security – but where is the usability?

I wrote earlier about the threats that are currently attacking our computer systems in the society, and we can also see that there are new attempts at increasing the security in the systems. However, there is an inherent problem in computer security, namely the transparency and usability of the systems. It seems that it is very difficult to create security systems that are easy to use. We have been used to writing our passwords on sticky notes and paste them on the screen, and we put our PIN codes on small paper notes in the wallet so that we will not forget them when we really need them. The reason for this is of course that the passwords, in order to be strong, have to be more than impossible to remember. Even worse is that in order to be really safe (according to the professional advice), you should have different passwords everywhere. And there are also all the many PIN codes to all the cards we have.

One important property within the human being is the delimitation of the memory. We have problems remembering meaningless things, such as the recommended password: “gCjn*wZEZK^gN0HGFg4wUAws”. So people tend to not have that kind of passwords, which of course leads to a decreased security. Well, in some sense we also solved this problem by adding two-step verification, i.e., the “if-you-don’t-have-your-phone-you-are-lost”-verification. This, of course, has to be interleaved with “find a motorcycle” or “find the traffic lights” games, to prove that you are not a robot (!).

Now it has become better, we have biometric security. We use the fingerprint or facial recognition methods. Only problem is that after a day of work in the garden, the fingerprints are no longer recognizable, and after a severe accident, the face may not look at all like yourself anymore, so you cannot call your family to say that you are OK. Well, at least it is safe, isn’t it?

Yes, but not when it comes to the current means for BankID, the virtual identification used in Sweden. Yes, of course it works when you want to log into your bank in order to handle your affairs. It is an accepted identification method. BUT not when you want to move your BankID to a new telephone! To do so, you now (after the last change) have to scan your passport or national ID-card. The most common means of identification, which in Sweden is your driver’s license, is on the other hand NOT accepted.

You might think that that should not be any problems, since everybody will surely have a passport today? But, no, that is not the case. As an anecdotal evidence I will relate my fathers situation:

My father just turned 90 years old. He is still a young man in an old body, so he has an iMac, an iPad, a laser printer, etc. at home. He is in fact a quite heavy tech user for his age. He also had an old smartphone that started to lose its battery charging, so he was given a new smartphone as one of the birthday presents. The transfer of the data went smoothly and without any hiccups, until it was time to use the BankID on the new phone. It was of course not transferred. Thus, we ordered a new BankID on his bank and signed it with his BankID on his new phone. But now…

Who is being excluded by the design?

My father decided to quit driving several years ago. However, he still kept his drivers license and even had it renewed without problems. Although being an ex-globetrotter he also reckoned that he needs no passport any more. So, when I asked him for an ID, he produced the drivers license. That did of course not work, although it is valid as identification in most other places. It was not an option to go to the bank and identify himself. They cannot validate the BankID. It has to be done through the web page and the app. Sorry!

So, now I have to take my father through the heavy cold and snow to the police station to have a new passport, which is only going to be used one single time, that is, in order to install the BankID. Where is the user friendly procedure in this?

I would think that my father is not the only person who is using the driver’s license as identification. I assume that many older people, for example, will have a similar problem when they need to get a new BankID (provided that they even use a smartphone).

Where is the human-friendly procedure for establishing the identity? Why can we, for example, no longer trust the people at the bank to identify a person with a valid identification and flick a switch to accept the ID? To make the issue a bit more general: Where has the consequence analysis gone when we make this kind of decisions? Or even better stated:

Who is going to be excluded by the new design or decision?

How vulnerable are we?

This post was actually started in late 2023, when the Swedish Church had become the victim of a cyberattack with ransomware, which took place November 22. The church organization at that time decided that it will not pay the ransom (in order not to make this a successful attack) but will instead recover the systems manually over time. However, this recovery takes a lot of time, and as long as the systems are not completely recovered, it is not possible to make any bookings for baptizing and weddings. In case of a funeral, it has still been possible to make a booking, but, the data had to be taken down using pen and paper (i.e., post-it notes).

We are very vulnerable if we only depend on our digital systems.

Head of information services at the Swedish church

In Sweden, the church has been separated from the government, but it is also still responsible for a number of national and regional bookkeeping services, like funerals. Also, a large number of people will still use the church services for baptizing and weddings, where in the latter case it also fulfills its role as an official administrative unit, in parallel with the weddings that are registered by the government. Suffice it to say that the church depends heavily on digital administration for its work. Consequently, some parts of the Swedish society also depends on the same computer systems being intact.

More attacks…

In 2024, there has now been a number of similar events, mostly through the use of ransomware, but also with overloading web servers. The systems affected this time have been in other organizations and governmental institutions. The most famous of them this time is probably the HR management system Primula, which is also used by the defense organizations and industries, among many others (including universities). This time the attacks are suspected to be made Russian hackers, possibly as part of a destabilization campaign as part of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Again, the main issue is not that there have been attacks that have been successful, but rather that the backup systems are insufficient or, in most cases seemingly missing. Hopefully the systems will soon be up and running again, but if there is an attack on systems that are more central to the functions in society, then the problem is not only in small organizations, but may affect larger systems including systems for money transfers. Recently shops have been forced to close, when there have been longer problems with the money services.

In this context it is also important to point to the problem with paying. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is responsible for helping society prepare for major accidents, crises and the consequences of war, recently sent out a message to the public, advising them to always have at list 2000 SEK in cash at home. The question is whether the society is prepared to revert to using cash money for the transactions. A large number of shops and services no longer accept cash as payment.

What now

When interviewed, the head of the information service for the Swedish church said that one lesson they have learned from this event is that they have to be less dependent on computer services than before. He did not specify how in any more detailed way, but the message was more or less clear: “We are very vulnerable if we only depend on our digital systems”. His conclusion is neither new, nor especially controversial. When our computer systems or the Internet fails, we are more or less helpless in many places. However, most of the time, the threats are envisioned in terms of disk crashes, physical damage or other similar factors. The increased risk of cyber attacks is not mentioned to the public to any larger extent.

We depend on our IT-support units to handle any possible interrupt as fast as possible, but the question is whether this is enough. Are there backups of the data? Are there backup systems that are ready to be launched in case the old system is failing? Are there backup non-computer based procedures that can replace the computer systems if there is a longer breakdown of the computer systems? Even if it is costly to maintain these backup systems/procedures, it is quite likely that we will need to add a higher level of security in order to not end up with a social disaster, where a large part of the society is essentially incapacitated.

What are the consequences?

We can just imagine what would happen if, as mentioned above, the central systems for bank transfers fails badly or gets “cyber-kidnapped”. Credit cards will not work, neither will mobile money transfers or other electronic payment options. There will be no way to pay our bills, and we may not even get the bills at first hand. Probably even the ATM machines will cease to work, so that there is no possibility to get cash either. Imagine now that this failure will last for days and weeks. What are the consequences?

But we don’t have to look at this national disaster scenario. It is enough to think about what will happen if the computer systems in universities or other large organizations are attacked by cyber-criminals. Not to mention the effects on critical health care, where minutes and seconds can count. Do we have any possibilities to continue the work, reaching journals or other important documents, schedule meetings, planning operations and other important events? Are we really ready to start working on paper again, if necessary? I fear not!

With the current situation in the world, with wars and possible also challenges from deteriorating environmental factors, a lack of emergency plans for our digital systems may not only be causing serious problems, but may really turn out to be disastrous in case of any larger international crisis. Looking at what happens around the world currently, it is easy to see that the risk for cyber-attacks in international crisis situations has increased to a high degree. In many cases the (possible) plans on how to proceed are not known to people who work in the organizations. Is your work protected? Do you know what to do if the systems fail?

Unfortunately, we cannot continue to hope that “this will never happen”. Even if the most extreme of the possible scenarios may not happen, we are still very vulnerable to attacks, e.g., with ransomware or “Denial of service” from “normal cyber-criminals” and this can be just as bad on the local scene, when a whole organization is brought to a halt due to a computer system failing badly. Therefore we need to be acting proactively in order to not be stuck if/when the systems fail. Because, it is quite certain that they will fail at some point of time.

And how will YOUR organization handle that kind of situation? Do YOU know?

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