I never thought I would be a columnist, as writing was never one of my strongest points. I still remember my college days when I had to drop an English course twice. No matter how hard I tried to squeeze the creative juices from my right brain, I could not manage to mass produce ten essays within a span of one semester in order to pass. Two semesters later I finally succeeded, only because I had enough recycled compositions (from the first and second attempts) to magically turn in during times when the juice ran dry.
So why did I start this column? First, I want to help promote the use of the Internet and other knowledge-based tools in the Philippines. The world is moving towards a new form of economy where the most precious asset is no longer land nor factories, but knowledge. To survive in the 21st century, we need to understand how these new technologies affect our lives. I intend to contribute in this regard by bringing you useful news, trivia, technical information and opinions.
Secondly, I want to support W!P's vision of bringing like-minded people together and fostering a vibrant IT community who values open exchange of information and ideas. It is through sharing our knowledge, views and experiences that we learn and grow as individuals. It is also through sharing that we as a community can create positive social change.
In pondering how I can add most value, I felt it compelling to discuss not only the technologies themselves but also the way they affect our lives. (Hence, the title "Beyond Technology".) It is important to look at the broader context for several reasons. First, we need to be careful about blindly embracing new technologies. Before jumping into the Java or XML bandwagon just because they are the "hottest stuff around", we must first step back to look at the big picture and ask ourselves these questions:
By adopting a critical stance, we minimize the chance of falling prey to empty promises and products that fail to deliver what we really need.
Even if a technology proves useful, it is just as important to know when it makes sense to apply it. We need to understand its strengths and limitations to make the right decisions. You will be surprised how often technology is used without judicious consideration. Take the software industry for example. Many programmers nowadays tout OO (Object Orientation)  as the solution to all programming problems. It may be great for designing many applications, but I would be extremely nervous if my car's ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) is controlled by an OO program or God forbid - Microsoft Windows! I'll try to talk more about Object Oriented Programming in a future topic.
The idea of using appropriate technology is even more compelling for the Philippines, where computing and IT resources are modest. Metro Manila and its cosmopolitan residents may be in sync with the latest technological trends, but the rest of the country far behind. This became all too obvious to me four years ago when I was involved in a California-based volunteer project to help increase computer literacy in the Philippines, by providing used computers to public high schools. (I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time.) As part of the project, we assessed the availability of PCs among the 110 or so S&T schools throughout Regions I to XII and found the situation to be discouraging, with less than 25% of the schools having adequate computing facilities . Granted, things may have significantly improved since then. That aside, we only need to recognize the fact that the Philippine peso buying power is 1/38th of a US dollar. With such disparity in currency value, we need to be wise about how we spend our money to acquire these cool products from abroad.
Where do we go from here? In the upcoming issues, I will discuss how the Internet, computing, software and hardware and other technologies are inter-related, and how they impact our everyday lives. We will also look at trends as well as upcoming technologies and cool products. Many of these will be natural extensions of today's Internet. Things like multimedia, digital libraries, knowledge management (KM) tools, intelligent agents, virtual reality, etc. But every now and then we will take a leisurely diversion and explore other interesting advances such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and the like.
I look forward to your comments!
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