Heather Gray raced from Asia to Australia nine years ago to take up a scholarship at Griffith Business School in the nick of time.
The 51-year-old was awarded a PhD from the Department of International Business and Asian Studies on August 7 at a ceremony in Brisbane.
Now a return to Asia beckons. Her research findings are to be rolled out in Myanmar in an initiative to deliver technology education in a developing country.
“My research found that older people need to have a sense of control and independence when using the computers as a tool. The computer should not be a burden to them. It should enable them to engage with the community.
“Young adults are taught about technology tools, involving information that is largely unnecessary for older adults. An 84-year-old who wants to write his family history has no need or desire for technical info about formatting and font size. They just want to know what they need to know to achieve their goal.
“I believe these principles can be applied effectively in developing countries so now I am testing my research findings in Myanmar where an environment of information technology is limited or in many places does not exist.
“It needs to be developed there, but it needs to be developed in a logical and efficient way.
“It has the potential to bring the country forward 50 years in terms of global engagement, to help businesses to succeed and schools to deliver education in a way that enables the wider population.”
Letter from Hong Kong
Heather was working in Korea in 2004 when the PhD opportunity arose at Griffith. Ironically, for a disciple of information technology, tracking her down to inform her of the good news proved a challenge.
Eventually a letter from Hong Kong got through to her and she arrived in Brisbane with only a day to spare to take up an offer to research how older adults engage with computers and internet technologies. Tomorrow’s graduation will bring a happy ending to this chapter.
“I’m relieved and delighted that graduation day has come,” she said. “It has been worth it.”
“It was the first time I walked across the stage at a graduation ceremony. In the past I’ve been overseas.”
Heather previously qualified with a graduate certificate and graduate diploma in information systems before doing a Master of Information Systems (Advanced) that took her to Thailand to investigate the digital divide there.
On her return to Brisbane to work with the Queensland government, this question about engagement with information technology continued to occupy her thoughts, as she became increasingly aware of the large numbers over the age of 64 not using computers.
“I discovered that between 1998 and 2004, only 12 percent of older people were engaging with this technology. I decided to try and find out why.”
Employment at Griffith as a lecturer at the School of Information and Communication Technology would come in tandem with her PhD.
She is on the School of ICT organising committee for this Sunday’s Open Day, where School students will showcase a web-based program designed to help prospective students identify a career and then locate the degree for them.
“It will give them the skills and qualifications needed to pursue that career.”
Heather has also been involved in securing ICT industry partners, including IBM and Women in Technology, to discuss career opportunities on the day.
More than 2000 Griffith University students will graduate from Griffith University this week, at ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre.
Heather will be among 790 postgraduate students donning mortar board and gown, and one of 853 Griffith Business School graduates.
Joining her for the occasion will be her husband and 75-year-old mother who drove up from Adelaide and close friends from around Australia. Heather will be joined on the dais by mentor and close friend Robert Wensley QC as well as many other academics celebrating with her.
Experience the New Griffith at Open Day 2013 on August 11 (9am-2pm).