United in IT: Tech Culture Breaks Down Barriers Abroad1 | 2 |
Bangalore has been known throughout modern history as a city with a good educational infrastructure, state enterprises that provide employment and salubrious weather that attracts retirees, Shende said. But it was the emergence of small-sized IT services companies that was the starting point of the city’s revolution. “Till the mid-1980s, there was nothing distinctive about Bangalore that presented hints of the metamorphosis that the city was to undergo,” he said.
In retrospect, Shende said that Bangalore was affected positively and negatively by the offshoring trend. “While [the city] gained tremendously by way of private investments, leading to employment and wealth creation in the city, [it also gave rise to] negatives such as infrastructure bottlenecks and declining quality of life,” he said.
Nijhon echoed the existence of both positive and negative impacts: “On the one hand, there have been significant socioeconomic changes, including more independence for women and the move from joint families to smaller independent families,” he said. “On the other hand, [I’m concerned that] the rapid pace of development of the IT industry in the city will overshadow the growth of other fields such as arts, economics and medicine.”
The IT industry may not have a strong presence in some nations, but that doesn’t mean IT hasn’t played a role in shaping these cultures, as well. In most instances, the introduction of new technological devices in a city or country has improved the quality of life of its inhabitants.
Sunner cites the One Laptop Per Child program as an example of an organization that uses technology to advance the interests of society at large. Begun by MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte, this nonprofit organization envisioned and created the XO laptop, a $200 wireless Internet-enabled laptop with low power consumption. It was specifically designed as a learning tool for children in Third World countries, including regions in Nigeria and Colombia. The global education project aims to provide laptops to the nearly 2 billion children in the developing world who aren’t afforded educational opportunities.
One of the program’s biggest challenges is the expense of providing Internet access in certain territories where the organization plans to introduce the laptops. While the company continues to explore low-cost Internet options, the laptops now operate through a new, unproven Wi-Fi technology called “mesh.” With mesh, if one person obtains Internet access, those nearby will share the same connection.
Sunner predicts that in the future, new and improved technological devices won’t just be limited to people in the Western world. “A decade from now, these kinds of communication devices will absolutely be available in more remote territories, and the ramifications of that, we can’t conceive,” he said.
While educating and empowering children and adults through new technology is beneficial, Sunner said there could be negative effects when introducing them to Third World countries. Corruption and fraud are likely to prevail in areas where inhabitants live far below the poverty line, he said.
Some people, for example, can make more money through scam e-mails than their physically laborious jobs. “They may well be tempted,” Sunner said. “It’s naive not to expect some sort of backlash from these initiatives because [there’s] such a massive imbalance in terms of people’s ability to earn minimum wage. Yet, they’re connected to the same communications medium.”
Future of IT
A little more than a decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine the current rate of technological progress, let alone that the Internet would become ubiquitous. In the United States alone, a third of Internet users opted for wireless connectivity, using means such as Wi-Fi broadband or cell phone networks to surf the Internet and check e-mail, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Around the world, however, Sunner has noticed a huge divide between free and expensive Wi-Fi access. He predicts that a decade from now, Wi-Fi access will be free and readily available at a host of international locations, including airport lounges. “Kids will look back on this time and think it’s bonkers that we have to pay for Wi-Fi access,” he said. He pointed to Apple’s MacBook Air that has only Wi-Fi capabilities as a good indicator to the future of IT.
“The Internet is achieving in just a decade what maybe took centuries in the past,” Sunner said. “Because of that breakneck speed, I don’t think we can conceive quite where all this [technological innovation] is heading.” 8
– Deanna Hartley, firstname.lastname@example.org | 2 |