The UK government is providing 5.7m funding towards the CSCW Computer Supported Co-operative Work Programme that has just been launched by the UK Department of Trade & Industry and the Science & Engineering Research Council and will run for three years. The project is seen as a step beyond groupware and in conjunction with business process re-engineering is aimed at enabling firms to move beyond existing work structures in an attempt at embracing all aspects of the business – people, the business problem and the technology. Participating organisations will contribute further cash making a total of around 13m. The Programme will bring together around 40 UK organisations into eight consortia, including multinational users, small to medium sized enterprises, major information technology companies and university researchers. The role of the consortia will be to find and then address the areas where they see the next generation of information technology products will fall,embracing everything from virtual reality to intelligent electronic mail. Among the consortia is the CD Collaborative Documents Project which is producing technological aids for businesses needing to use their mobile and dispersed staff more effectively and is made up of Staffware Plc, Brunel University’s Centre for Document Management and Imperial College’s Centre for Cognitive Studies. SYCOMT is a 1.5m research project to investigate how information technology systems can better support the way people actually work. The consortium consists of Digital Equipment Co, Syncho Ltd – a cybernetics specialist, the National Westminster Bank Plc and the University of Lancaster, and will look at the design and development of systems to support group working, with specific focus on retail banking, its need for improved customer service and the demand this is placing on the current capabilities of information technology systems. Other consortia will address the problem faced by engineering designers in gaining simultaneous access to common information, and tracing the train of thought that led to a completed design; and another at the use of networked virtual reality systems to support co-operative work across dispersed groups.
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