Chris Yapp, the Head of Public Sector Innovation at Microsoft UK (Google results), was an expert witness at the School for Social Entrepreneurs' Essentials Programme yesterday, here in East London. He's an incredibly stimulating speaker, bringing an avalanche of new ideas and techniques into your world to apply to what you do.
One thing (amongst many) that he mentioned in passing was new uses of technology in education (which Microsoft are supporting; see here for their various community investment activities). The example he gave was of a class who had been recording their lessons, then podcasting them so that fellow pupils who'd missed them could listen to them on their MP3 player; best (or most contentiously!) of all, the teachers had no idea it was going on. Genius.
What it shows is the myriad uses of new technology once it reaches a certain point of take-up. With broadband and MP3 player take-up increasing daily, options for such uses becomes a real possibility. Factoring in other developments (like Skype's addition of video calling), and the potential seems limitless. Imagine a world where a grandmother living on her own can switch her computer on, download the latest chapter of an audiobook straight to her MP3 player, then have a (currently free) video call with her grandchildren to tell them what she thought. Indeed, there's probably a forward-thinking silver surfer (ghastly phrase) whose doing that as I write.
What the futurologists inspire us to do is to think of the new uses, to be strategic in real forward planning, and to factor in the effect of new innovations. It's a challenge, but an exciting one.