19 May 2007 04:14

SOMALIA WATCH

 
Column
  • Title: [SW Column] (Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News) Peace Corps Needs to Go High-Tech for Internet Age.
  • From:[]
  • Date :[] 07-Dec-1999

BRIDGE NEWS - NEW YORK: (B) OPINION: Peace Corps Needs to Go High-Tech for Internet Age - Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News ; 07-Dec-1999 12:11:20 am ; 824 words
By Harold J. Raveche, Stevens Institute of Technology

HOBOKEN, N.J.--As I hurried to catch my morning flight out of Dhaka, Bangladesh, I passed hundreds of children sleeping on the edge of the street, within inches of speeding vehicles. My thoughts turned to how that scene compared with the endless stories of Americans making buckets of money the dot-com way.

The chasm of technology separating the streets of Dhaka and the highways of Silicon Valley is so great as to be measured in light-years. If the New Economy has arrived, no one has informed Dhaka, where the Old Economy barely exists and where people try to survive without the basics of transportation, refrigeration or even a table on which to eat (if they have food).

Much has been written about the technology gap between the rich and poor in America. But it's nothing compared with the technology canyon that separates the United States and other developed nations from places like Bangladesh, most of Africa and India.

Perhaps the new dot-com world needs a wake-up call, or a crowbar, to redirect it to serve mankind in nobler ways than it does now.

Newton Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was right: We've taken the revolutionary advancement of television and created a vast wasteland, a video world devoted to our pleasures and appetites. Are we taking the Internet world and making an even bigger wasteland?

Let's get serious about how we use this new technology. If we raise standards, we can redesign cyberspace with content that provides more services to those in need.

How can we bridge the technology breach between the haves and the have-nots and create an Internet to help countries like Bangladesh?

We could start with incentives to entrepreneurs to develop educational software. There is a rush to wire every American school so students can have Internet access, but precious little is being done to provide software for educational programs.

There's much more profit in other activities like on-line retailing. In fact, on-line pornography outfits have more sophisticated software than even university-level educational programs.

Why not start a private foundation, with e-commerce philanthropists' providing incentives to Bangladeshi software developers to fund educational software?

The private sector and the U.S. government could establish a sort of national technology corps to develop Internet technology for nations like Bangladesh. This public-private partnership would motivate entrepreneurs to help Bangladesh and other struggling countries become part of the Internet business world.

Members of this "tech corps" could serve a year or two in another country, developing an infrastructure for Internet commerce that would promote greater capabilities for tech-based business.

These young adults would provide these countries with the bare essentials of technology, much as Peace Corps volunteers did with agricultural in the 1960s.

But these programs won't be rehashes of the "pie in the sky" giveaway programs of the 1960s.

With the enormous wealth being created in the dot-com world and the federal surplus (created in part by e-commerce profits), there is enough in the federal budget for such international outreach.

But it requires leaders in the private and federal sectors who understand the growing worldwide economic gap as well as visionaries to see what can be done to close it.

Why not make this an issue in the upcoming presidential election? Certainly this would be much more substantial than asking candidates if they know the names of foreign leaders.

Making a difference worldwide will take a willingness by Americans to share part of their great prosperity (again, generated by the New Economy and e-commerce).

If Americans do not make international economic development a major issue, the gap with countries like Bangladesh will surely widen to the point where revolution, war and famine are sure to erupt.

Such scourges have already ended up at our doorstep in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda, and more will certainly follow.

It is in our enlightened self-interest to share our technological know-how and wealth. The thousands of Bangladeshi kids sleeping on curb sides at night deserve a sliver of our good fortune.

HAROLD RAVECHE is president of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. His views are not necessarily those of Bridge News, whose ventures include the Internet site www.bridge.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


[Back to the top][Column]

Copyright 1999 by somaliawatch.org.  All Rights Reserved.  Revised:  19 May 2007 05:02 AM. Webmaster HomePage