First Person: Our New Global Culture is Held Together By I.T.

blogCDBy Maryori Vivas 

It’s January, 2013 and I just finished a skype conversation with a fellow Telemedicine colleague. He is not a MD but an IT expert. I did not grow up with Facebook or Skype and still don’t have a clue what chat means.  I used to listen to music with a tape recorder and the classical long play records and, like many, became witness to the astonishing developments, and societal influences, of information technology.

Different social groups also have different access to resources and knowledge, and societies with easy access to information technologies seem to achieve faster rates of equality and inclusion. Clearly, we are living in a new global culture underpinned by IT. Our children learn to type instead of handwrite.

When we consider the structural components of any culture there are three key verbs: To have, to think and to behave. Thus we are facing a new digital culture due to the amazing developments we have access to. Why we behave differently to make a call? It is simply because we have now cellphones, smartphones, VoIP and so on.  We behave in a different way because our thinking has changed given the reality around us.

I was a Wi-Fi hunter during my last trip abroad, with smartphone in hand I could not bear to be isolated and disconnected.  My thinking has been transformed due to the tools I have access to and I do miss them a lot when I change my location. Connectivity is a must for millions like me.

Technology is not only B2B as it mainly was in past. On the contrary the B2C scenario makes possible to impact millions of lives at one click.

Internet and Connectivity

In 1995 I joined the “Red Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología” (CETCOL) – National Science and Technology Network in Colombia, leaded by Colciencias (National Science Institute) and ICFES (Colombian Institute to foment Higher education) as administrative staff. It was a country’s entrepreneurship with a single goal of making the interconnection possible throughout the territory. At the time our national backbone had only thirteen nodes and barely recall technologies available as V-Sat and microwave. It is funny to remember we had an average of twenty users per modem and the unforgettable sound of dial-up connection to internet. I learned about NIC and IP addresses without even remotely imagining that this would become the interconnection platform for today’s Colombian network.

As I flashback to those days I distinctly remember the commitment of technical staff with professionals such as Gonzalo Ulloa, Edwin Montoya and Hugo Sin. Certainly, they were hired as outstanding professionals to lead the challenging and difficult technical decision process, but by the same token they performed additional role. Beyond technology, they laid the foundation for the development and use of the internet as a social tool. I remember those endless and at times tedious meetings defining technology A or B for the node X or Y with a sentence on the table: this is a country project. Yes indeed. It was a project that maybe long forgotten today but will always remain as the groundbreaking process which lead Colombia into the next generation of cyber connection.

Today we have an outstanding e-learning program through the public education service from SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje), e-government leaded by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology who is promoting and actively working for Vive Digital (Live Digital); we have access to government information, and the younger generations are able to use facebook and twitter to change the world with one click. At the same time the Health Ministry is compelling towns and cities to use telemedicine which provides health services in isolated areas.

The Technology Revolution

The social impact of IT is real. Nevertheless, there is also the commitment of IT leaders, managers and professionals to use it in a proper way. In order for technology to become a support for progress and not a threat to its users, ethical guidelines must be an integral part of technology. Technology is not only B2B as it mainly was in past. On the contrary the B2C scenario makes possible to impact millions of lives at one click.

The power of the use of technology has been recently tested to the fullest: the Middle East revolution brought down several regimes which started with a blackberry pin broadcast; Obama used social networks and became president of United States. The same social networks drove millions of Colombians around the globe hit the streets to raise their claim “no more FARC”.

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As CETCOL once changed the reality of this country, IT efforts may change other realities as well. To be or not to be is not the dilemma. How to be is the question. Balance between virtual and real interpersonal relationships with human being as the most important piece of the technological puzzle. Business meetings take place in a virtual environment but businesses are done by people, and it won’t change. Technology must be contemplated as a tool to assist us and not to guide us. A good wine can be described on the web but never can be tasted online!

Reach Maryori Vivas, a Colombia-based business consultant, at [email protected].