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Innovation and emerging technologies

The impact on Australian society

As you are studying innovation and emerging technologies it is important to consider the overall impact on society but more particularly the impact on Australian society. A society is a group of individuals with a common theme. That theme could have its base in things such as where they live, where they work, what they enjoy doing or where they originated from. Each society will react to and be affected differently by innovation and technology and to a large extent will be influenced by economic and political issues, culture and history.

It is well known and often quoted, that Australians are earlier adopters of new technology. Most families will have computers, broadband wireless internet and mobile phones. Many other forms of new innovation and emerging technology will be a significant part of their daily life, but what it is, will depend upon the areas of interest, the age and the sex of the user.


This material addresses aspects of the following syllabus outcome:

H6.2 The student critically assesses the emergence and impact of new technologies, and the factors affecting their development.

Source: Board of Studies NSW, Stage 6 Design and Technology Syllabus , Preliminary and HSC Courses (2007)

Qualitative versus quantitative research

To understand why societies and members of societies behave the way that they do, researchers will use qualitative research and quantitative research.

Quantitative research tells us how lots of people feel, think or act in a particular way. Usually, a researcher would design a questionnaire or survey with a number of closed questions – questions that have a limited number of responses, e.g. ‘Do you like the colour blue?'. Researchers would survey a large, random number of people either in person, over the telephone or by filling in a questionnaire.

When you want to know facts, figures and generalised patterns of behaviour you conduct quantitative research. The results will tell you that X number of people live in houses, Y number of people eat take-away once a week and Z number of people live in houses and eat take-away food once a week.

If however you want to find out why they live in houses or why they eat take-away then you need to start asking questions that elicit more information, that is conduct qualitative research.

Qualitative research gives us a greater understanding of human behaviour and the reasons behind why humans behave in a particular way. It tells us how and why people feel the way they do.

Researchers choose smaller, selected sample groups, and gather the information they need by observation, in depth personal interviews and/or small group discussions. They ask questions that are specific to extract information that relates to that individual or group by asking for extended responses (open questions).

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Technology review (external website) is a really useful web site to find the latest information on innovation and emerging technology. It is published by Massechusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The site is updated regularly so everytime you visit this site, it may contain different information.

Here are some examples of articles that they have featured in the past.

Battery booster for electric cars (external website)

Wind power moves into deep water (external website)

Cheaper Solar Power (external website)

IBM's noise free Nano lab (external website)

From the labs: Nanotechnology (external website)

You will notice that emerging technology isn't just about computers and mobile phones but covers many wide ranging fields, such as medicine, energy sources, fibres, information, engineering etc.


  1. Click on the link to Technology review (external website) and choose either Computing, Web, Communications, Web, Energy, Material, Biomedicine, OR Business. Choose an emerging technology from one of these. Try to find some past history on this technology and predict where it may go in the future.
  2. How might this technology impact on Australia and Australian society now and in the future? One way of looking at the potential impact of an innovation or emerging technology is to complete a futures wheel (external website). A futures wheel looks at the direct and indirect consequences of an innovation or a new technology idea.
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Each innovation affects people in different ways. This will depend upon what the innovation is and whether it will assist them in their day-to-day lives. Some innovations only target a small selected group of users, whilst others reach a much wider audience.

Some people are suspicious of new innovations and will continue to do things as they always have. They won't accept a new innovation or technology until there is no choice but to use it, and usually by then, it is no longer really new, for example, E-tags on certain roads.

Some people aren't even aware of the fact that they are using a new technology or innovation, as it has simply been built into what they have always used and they don't even realise it is there, e.g. many features in modern motor vehicles and appliances.

Some people have the desire to be the first one to get hold of a new innovation as they like to be the trail blazers. They are the ones that will queue for hours or even days to get hold of this latest item.

Some people are happy to take on a new innovation, but prefer to wait a while for any problems to be eliminated and for the innovation to become cheaper, faster, more user friendly, etc

The White Hat Guide (external website) to Australian Inventions, Discoveries & Innovations gives a list of Australian inventions and innovations from Aboriginal times and across many different fields. We often think of new innovation coming from overseas, but this list includes many Australian innovations that have had major world impacts.

1. Which type of person are you?

2. Do you think there is a right attitude to innovation and change? Which of these attitudes may result in a more sustainable future?

Impact of technology on society

The introduction of innovations and new technology into our day-to-day lives has certainly made life easier and more pleasant, but there can be a downside to technology.

There has been a trend where we have become lazier and less likely to interact with others on a personal level. We have become too reliant on the technology so that we can't cope when it breaks down or the infrastructure to support it breaks down, e.g. a blackout.

Yet newer technology is becoming more ‘humanised' from voice recognition, hand writing recognition, and becoming touch sensitive. Technology not only talks to us, but can talk to us in a voice that sounds like a real person and one that we feel comfortable hearing, e.g. the selection of voices in ‘Sat Nav' devices or telling us that the washing cycle has finished.


1. Make a list of modern technology that is allowing for a more socialised existence.

2. Predict where technology will take us to in the future to give us a more interactive and social life.

3. The Australian Government recognises that innovation is the key to our future success. Read about their 10 year innovation strategy, Powering Ideas (external website).

4. Investigate how innovation is impacting on specific industries (external website) in Australia.



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