3 April 2009

Intel/GE healthcare alliance underlines strategic value of ethnographic research

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Intel's MCA
If you ever need a solid case on why ethnographic research can provide strategic value to companies, yesterday’s announcement of the $250 million Intel/GE healthcare alliance provides you with a great one.

Intel has for years heavily invested in on-the-ground observation and ethnography.

Its focus is often on understanding deeper issues that can affect the future uptake of technology, on better understanding the various cultural and social paradigms in order to avoid forcing a Western concept of technology on societies and cultures that have different viewpoints, or even on influencing strategic business directions.

Genevieve Bell and other Intel anthropologists are keenly interested in researching concepts such as the use of technology to support religious practices, cultural differences in storing and archiving, the various concepts of the home, what sharing might mean in the social and cultural context of Asia, and “the rituals, practices, markers, and triggers” that can influence how technology gets used in the healthcare sector.

This has led to many of Intel’s innovations, including the Classmate PC and the Community PC, but now it is actually influencing a major strategic business decision: an investment of more than $250 million over the next five years for the research and product development of home-based health technologies.

From the press release:
“The combination of Intel’s leading capabilities in ethnographic research and technology development combined with GE’s world-class expertise and global distribution strengths in healthcare IT, electronic medical records, critical care and passive monitoring is a strong strategic fit.”

Read more: New York Times | Electronics Weekly

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