Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Of (lost) opportunities

Disaster, if you look real close, brings with it strange opportunities. On September 11, 2001, when a certain locality of NYC was completely in rubbles, Cisco won hearts by bringing its IP telephony to life in the snap of a finger in that area which had lost all communications infrastructure. Technology, to solve human problems.
That's what technology is for. Technology is not for the sake of itself. It is there to solve human problems. That is a point we (as a nation) do not understand. We become engineers or doctors whatever the else hell we become without knowing why we're doing it.
We talk of IT, but all we have done in the name of IT, truly, in all these years, is:

  • establish shops that sell computers
  • establish shops that sell computer CDs
  • establish the so-called software houses, who are for the most part not doing so well
  • establish call centers, train jobless graduates and throw them in to take pizza orders
  • establish so-called IT "universities" in bungalows, churning out IT degrees to anyone and everyone who happens to be interested in an admission there

The reason everything is faring badly, except for the shops (well the universities are making lots of money, too, but if you look at the output they are producing, I wouldnt call it success) is that we are thinking IT for the sake of IT. Computer to play games, chat or whatever. We're not solving the real problems that we should've solved. Few banks in our country are tech savvy. Airlines and civil aviation is only so much IT enabled. We are way far behind where we should be because we are not moving at all, let alone in the wrong direction. Well, we are moving in the wrong direction on every other count, but as far as IT is concerned, we arent even doing that.
So, back to my point, the disaster, the tremors. IT could be an enabler for so many things here. IT could do wonders here. Saving lives, speeding up so many other (sometimes life) critical processes. But, look at the situation, the million dollar telecom investors are riding people's shoulders by providing telephone booths and stuff in those areas. In the end, people will remember Telenor for they enabled them to call some disaster "relief" center to find out about the well being of their loved ones. IT, on the other hand, will go unnoticed. If IT were to take the lime light, as it should, because compared to IT, even telecom takes the back seat, and telecom wouldnt be anything if it werent for the computing infrastructure, then our society would begin to give IT its proper place and see it as an enabler of sorts, and not as a laptop that seth sahib wants to buy because it's a status symbol.
But unfortunately, that is not going to happen. PASHA is running around to do something. Several other people are talking about what should be done. Zohaib Hassan talked about building a website. One person on a mailing list that I subscribe to, wanted to build a similar website. 100 different people and organizations will be interested in it. A few of them will develop unconnected, uncoordinated solutions, that no one will really use, and the golden opportunity will be lost. Hasta la vista, IT!
Too bad!


Peu Orthodoxe said...

Sir, I second your views about the way we, as a nation and particularly our goverment think of IT - that is - IT for the sake of IT. But Sir, can you suggest something that we can do, on our individual basis and then subsequently as a community, for our nation, country. Specially how can we contribute to relief efforts for quake victims. As right now, trust me, I feel sorry for myself for not being a doctor, as they are in excellent position to extend helping hand.

Muhammad Saqib Ilyas said...

It's been almost two weeks since the tragedy struck, so it is already about too late to create an impact, (as far as IT is concerned). Telecom has already created an impact. As I mentioned, different bodies and people are doing their disconnected IT efforts in the form of SMS connected web portals for disaster relief and stuff, but at this point in time, its utilization and utility will be limited, hence it will not create the needed dynamic impact.
I feel glad that I am not a doctor, in fact, I thank heavens for it. I am glad for being what I am, so should you. There's something that everyone can do. For instance, if you read one of my earlier blog entries, I said that if I didnt have quizzes and homeworks and exams, I would drive up north and volunteer my car and gas for transporting victims and stuff. That's one way. You might have tent pitching skill, so you could pitch in that way. You might be able to cook, so you might help workers and victims with that. The list goes on. The thing is, having the desire to contribute. What matters is, do we have it or not.