Home Latin America III 2000 A Chess Game with Captain Kirk

A Chess Game with Captain Kirk

by david.nunes
Yon Moreira da Silva JuniorIssue:Latin America III 2000
Article no.:15
Topic:A Chess Game with Captain Kirk
Author:Yon Moreira da Silva Junior
Title:Vice President
Organisation:Telefónica Empresas
PDF size:20KB

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Article abstract

This morning I woke up when the alarm clock rang. I shaved with a Gillette razor blade and shaving cream, listened to the news on the radio and went to the office in my four wheel car using fossil fuel – exactly like people did fifty years ago. On the way to work I was reminded of the movie I had seen the night before. Star Trek, one of the bibles of science fiction movies.

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I loved the scenes of interplanetary videoconferencing, movable communication equipment, the transcorders (on what band would those cell phones be operating in space?) enormous high definition screens. When I arrived at my office, I could not resist the temptation of thinking that the science fiction of decades ago has been transported to my office. Captain Kirk would be proud of the scenario. It is not a question of incorporating here the arbitrary and judgmental attitudes of the captain. But it is a question of asking ourselves how and why we are using all this technological arsenal. A great deal has been said about a world divided between the “connected” and the “unconnected”. In a society in constant transformation, there are just as many opportunities for advancement as there are possibilities of being excluded from the job market. It is this aspect which we should analyse more closely. Internet in the schools: linking up everyone Just as our old friend Captain Kirk never imagined life without the famous interplanetary linkups, a type of shortcut among the galaxies, today we cannot imagine the future without the Internet. And as it is obvious that the Internet makes all the difference in the world, we must think seriously about the impact all this technological paraphernalia is having on the socio-economic development of the less prosperous countries. Is it possible to avoid technological exclusion? Probably not, but it is possible to create shortcuts, or links, as we like to say currently, to integrate those who would presumably be condemned to exclusion. Lets analyse this crucial question in the context of one sector that will really make an enormous difference in countries like Brazil in the coming years: the field of education. Research conducted last month (September 2000) by the institute that measures the Internet and the digital media, Media Metrix Brasil, reveals that the Internet in Brazil is growing at a rate of 48% per year. An extremely high rate, if we consider that the average growth rate in the rest of the world is 26%. This galloping expansion in Brazil is without a doubt, a record, when compared to the growth rate of the other significant technological products and services that were introduced in the twentieth century. It should be noted that even the automotive industry took more than forty years to be widely used, while refrigerators took forty-three years. The same survey by Media Metrix Brasil estimates that Brazil has approximately 8.6 million persons connected to the Web. Another study conducted recently by IDC (International Data Corporation) Brazil reveals that the number of persons connected to the Internet increased by more than 60% in comparison with the same period last year. The pace of technological development has not always been like this. It took thirty years for the use of computers to become widespread throughout Brazil, until banks and companies in other sectors entered the world of information technology. However, in the educational sector, this computerisation took far longer and was a much more arduous process. Only in the early 1990s did some colleges and universities begin to create mechanisms in an effort to reduce the impact of their late start in the IT universe. In the case of primary and secondary school education, the process was even slower and the problems were even greater. With the advent of the Internet, in 1991, the professor/student-relationship previously based on the old method of black board and oratory gained a revolutionary force. However, the barriers to integrating this technology into the field of education seemed enormous, since there was no real infrastructure, investment or apparent interest. Despite all this, approximately two years ago, the Internet began to be introduced into private primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, in the public schools, access to the World Wide Web is not yet a reality. To reduce the impact of our late start in the field of education, some measures have proven to be successful. Telefónica, together, with the state of São Paulo government, is beginning to implement an innovative programme in Brazil. The goal is to provide a high speed Internet link to 2,170 public schools in the state of São Paulo. The link will benefit 3.3 million students and 100,000 public schools in approximately 500 municipalities. The resources for broadband access will make it possible to structure study programmes, research, pedagogical projects and provide an interactive linkup between the São Paulo State Secretariat of Education, schools and the educational centres of each region. In this project the most advanced technological resources are being used, via services such as Speedy (ADSL) and the Internet Protocol Network (IP), to significantly enhance the information technology programme that the government of the state of São Paulo has been implementing in the public schools since 1995. A great number of the students have never touched a computer, much less had access to the Internet. Imagine then what it will be like for them to navigate on the network. With high speed dedicated access, being able to access geographical maps, anatomical figures, films, and a great variety of educational data that wet the intellectual appetite, arouse the students curiosity and make the classes far more exciting and the learning process more productive. Putting these students in contact with this technological arsenal in a country such as Brazil, where the unequal distribution of opportunities is well recognised, we are bringing them much closer to the job market. We will have created a link so that for now, and ever, they will be part of the “connected” world. Are we being naïve? Is the project insufficient? Perhaps, but it works. And the programme generates great personal satisfaction. Imagine, in a few years we will be providing jobs to youths who surfed the Internet for the first time in their lives thanks to this initiative. From a pragmatic, business, point of view, we are placing a bet in favour of the countrys future by providing students with much needed skills and expanding the market and their opportunities in it. We are offering them the basic tools – preparing manpower with better- honed skills. Small and Medium Sized Companies: The True Force of the Market Micro companies and small and medium sized firms are key forces in a pulsating dynamic society. It is in this market niche that telecommunications service providers must give special attention. Giant companies, which have bargaining power and capacity for investment, can stand on their own two feet. The small companies, not always. That is why telecommunications can radically change a business. My old friend from Brotas, a small town in the interior of the state of São Paulo, can now sell cheese manufactured in his dairy over the web. Where are the borders that delimit the territories for commerce on the web? There are none. That is why the cheese of Brotas has been winning new markets. This is just one example. Brazil stands out among the worlds nations due to the explosive growth of its telecommunication services. In the state of São Paulo alone, there are more than 11 million telephone lines installed. Since we bought the States conventional fixed wired telephone service, in August 1998, we have installed more than 4.5 million new lines – an increase of 69% in the total number of telephone lines. What has been the impact on the market? It is estimated that for every one million new telephone lines installed US$1 billion in additional business is generated in the economy. Aside from voice services, when analysing the advances of data communication, we reach the conclusion that, thanks to public interest, concentrated efforts of the government and private enterprise, public policy, and the considerable investments, the impact has been enormous here, as it would be anywhere else in the world. Conclusion The enormous changes that have occur-red in the telecommunication sector after privatisation are clearly visible. The Internet is integrated in the schools, data is transmitted at enormous speeds, small and medium size businesses are being given ample access to simple and functional solutions for their business. Tele-communications help link Brazil to the global economy. Brazil, this great laboratory, this mixture of races, colours and cultures, is becoming a unique focal point for international and national observers. We are witnessing one moment in time, in the age of telecommunications, a moment of fervent activity. It is here that the most exciting plays in decades are being made on this fascinating chessboard.

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