Dreaming About Digital Ideals

ONE would think that the digital space would make the flow of information and ideas a lot easier.

While that is part of the dream, in reality, each country is living its own digital dream, subject to the availability of resources, the amount of wealth it has and the rule of the land.

For the smartly turned out Yvonne Chiu, the pursuit of a global digital dream is a race run at various speeds.

As the Chairman of WITSA (World Information Technology And Services Alliance), she helms an organisation that has 82 member countries, enjoys 90% global marketshare and is valued at US$4.3 trillion. The fact that there are nearly 200 countries in the world shows that the disproportion of haves to have nots is a major issue that needs to be addressed.

Chiu, a native of Taiwan, is aware of the challenges she faces in her two-year term, which started in October 2016.

global networking
Global networking is still far from global. dicogm/Shutterstock

Gathering Of Minds

At next month’s World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT 2017) conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Chiu is intent on spreading optimism for the narrowing of the digital divide. The theme of the conference is Living The Digital Dream and it is an opportunity to conduct a reality check on how the dreams are coming along, and what still needs to be done.

Dubbed the “Olympics of the information communication technology (ICT) industry” WCIT’s intentions are less about one country winning the most medals. Rather, it should be about spreading the knowledge around.

“It is not about bringing 10-year-old technology to up-and-coming industries,” Chiu says. “They want current technology.”

Chiu is optimistic that “in the future, everything will come together”.

“Lots of countries are under developed but they want their dreams to come true. Everyone should come to the same level,” she says.

However, there are some challenges to be overcome.

“The biggest challenges are time and money,” Chiu states, with a laugh.

But these would be common challenges in any business or endeavour. Still, Chiu is optimistic that platforms like WCIT will help to share the knowledge and help level the playing field.

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Travel To Experience

She hopes that the assistance offered by bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations will spill over into the information technology space to a greater extent.

“People can see infrastructure because buildings come up. But they can’t see IT. So, people need lots of education to change their mindset about the benefits of software development.”

Important in the process is the need for people to travel and see how countries that are successfully developing their IT capability do it.

“When you bring an expert to a country, that person is talking to people who may not  understand what is going on. So, we need to let them go out to see what’s going on, as well.

“One way is not good enough. It has to be a two-way process.”

Future@Work In Singapore

One of the projects she is working on is Future@ Work, a Singapore initiative that addresses issues of disruption and automation. The intention is to build an environment that showcases how the future should be one where humans and robots co-exist in the same space.

“There are many people who are afraid of computers. Especially successful businessmen,” Chiu notes.

Looking up from her notes, ironically printed out on paper, rather than reading them off a tablet or laptop, she points out that computers have been around 30 years.

Pepper, SoftBank Robotics
SoftBank Robotics Pepper is programmed to learn all the time. Flowgraph/Shutterstock

“I talked to Pepper (the humanoid robot from SoftBank Robotics) in Korea. When he doesn’t understand your question, he skips and talks about something else. Tomorrow he becomes smarter and talks about it. When you’re sleeping he’s practicing.

“When you know about computers and are familiar with them, you are not afraid of them. But if you don’t learn about them, they you will be afraid.

“But, don’t forget — robots are controlled by human beings,” she says with a comforting smile.

At least for now.

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