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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Optimizing emerging technologies

Features of the week:

Nigerians and indeed Africans can optimise emerging technologies by applying it to their daily activities reports REMMY NWEKE.

“The Internet provides solution to many problems of the people as it is needed in their day-to-day activities,” - Mr. Igho Mrakpor, chief executive, HiRest Africa spoke on the need to drive Internet penetration in a developing country like Nigeria.

Prelude:

For many people especially the technology savvy public in developing countries, technologies nowadays abound that could be deployed to make their lives better. This obviously must have strengthened the assertions by some experts that technologies embedded in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have changed the way people live and conduct businesses.

Equally for a lot of people the frequently mentioned examples of emerging technologies, include biomaterials, Information Technology, telecommunications, and nano-technology among others.

What is emerging technologies?

Experts contribution to an open sourced online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, described emerging technologies and converging technologies as terms used interchangeably to cover the emergence and convergence of new and potentially disruptive technologies such as nano-technology, biotechnology, information technology, telecommunications, cognitive science, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

The above definition means several things to many people, hence it could be quite difficult to precisely make denotations of these expressions, that is why the likes of techno-capitalist Bill Joy, have identified clusters of such technologies that they consider critical to humanity’s future.

While for advocates of the benefits of technological change, typical emerging and converging technologies offer hope for the betterment of humanity. Although, critics of the risks of technological change, warn that some of these technologies could pose dangers, perhaps even contribute to the extinction of humanity itself due to initial risks involve.

Others also see it from moral angle and advocated for distributive justice in allocating access to beneficial forms of technology, yet some oppose the continuing development of advanced technology based on the fear that its benefits will be distributed unequally in ways that could worsen the plight of the poor. Just as the inventor, Ray Kurzweil is among techno-utopians who think that emerging and converging technologies could and will eliminate poverty and abolish suffering.

To a very large extent, Kurzweil’s position seems to have continuously garnered support over the years than any other and that is why in developing economies people have come to associate themselves with using these emerging technologies to transact and in fact conclude business deals from the scratch.

However, most profound of these emerging technologies is the ICTs, through which the Internet and mobile telephony erupted and could be used for online trading among others.

Online trading:

For a Nigerian stockbroker, Iheanyi Eze, based on the deployment of technologies by the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) recently, he could confidently stay in any part of the country and even the world and begin trading of any kind in the nation’s capital market floor because NSE is now online and has the ability to offer online trading.

He stressed that the call over system was replaced in April 1999 at the capital market with the Automated Trading System (ATS), with bids and offers now matched by stockbrokers on the trading floors of the exchange through a network of computers. “This occurs every business day from 11.00am till bids and offers have been executed and usually around 1.30pm,” he said, enthusing that its commendable.

Powers of technology:

For the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, to claim indifferent to the powers of technology, especially the Internet and the changes that it imposes on today’s life could be suicidal for any public or private business concern, thus, it should be harnessed.

He also said that definitely, technology is driving the new economy but unfortunately not everyone is benefiting from it, mostly those who are in least developing countries due to lack of infrastructure or their belief.

He noted that today, Internet services, for instance are becoming available on even mobile phones making it possible to transact a wide range of services formally only available using a stationed computer device.

He expressed no doubt that with the endowment of Nigeria based on her large population of smart and educated young people, the Internet could be harnessed to provide employment and grow new businesses.

“As a medium, the internet offers ample room for – innovation through creation and cost effective marketing of Nigerian products, broadcast and marketing indigenous knowledge and ideas as well as creating and matching of services with needs in virtual marketplace, at the same producing and delivering ‘local content’,” Ndukwe said.

Media and technologies:

For a socio-critic and media practitioner, Mr. ‘Nenyeze Nweke emerging ICT tools are increasingly becoming indispensable at this time of development in every ramification, more so in a developing country, stressing that a media practitioner also must be conversant with contemporary issues with regard to the application of ICTs to ease his or her jobs if not make it better by way of reporting what he know.

While examining the usefulness of information at this time via the Internet, Mr. Nweke noted that this paved the way for the United Nations agencies led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to stage a two-phased World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in year 2003 and Tunis in 2005.

He said that this underscored the belief that lack of information is a key widening gap in digital divide among those who have and have nots, the rich and poor as well as between the enlightened and ignorant society; which negates the philosophy of a ‘global village’ where information is supreme and is shared freely rather than trying to invent the wheel over and over again.

Emerging technologies:

Defining emerging technologies as wide and encompassing, he pointed out that individuals and organisations as well as societies determine what emerging technologies means to them, thus allowing for varied definitions.

He recalled a definition by 321 site.com, which stated that an emerging technology is “a new technology not yet fully exploited by businesses.” In this case, developing economies and indeed African media needs to exploit fully the new technologies as a business module.

Basically, he said that some of the emerging ICT tools have been structured to be digitally compliant to the World Wide Web, which has been widely described as the engine room of the 21st century revolution, while the Internet serves as the ‘current’ in deploying ICT tools for a better informed society.

“Some of these tools include Personal Computers (PCs) either desktops or laptops, flash disks or removable disks, mobile-camera phones, digital cameras, High Definition Televisions (HDTV), Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and Internet access to name a few,” he enumerated.

In emerging technologies, Nweke explained that PCs are invaluable tools to media practitioners who could use it to key-in stories or reports, edit, plan and store it on a hard disk.

“In fact, it is a primary tool for emerging media practitioners, because it’s the stepping-stone from where other aspects of the evolution hang on to emancipate,” he declared, adding that other tools like the Flash disk otherwise known as removable portable disk which comes in sizes could be comfortably carried about and used in storage of information.

Increase in mobile phone:

As said by Nweke, in Africa the evolution of mobile phones is no longer anew to most countries, but media practitioners, for instance, need specifically mobile phones with quality camera of not less than three (3) mega pixels to ease their jobs and even record, so as to avail them the chance of taking pictures at events without much troubles, and with or without the presence of photo-journalists.

“Then with this, there would be no need begging a photojournalists, for instance to get an event picture for production purposes,” he noted, adding though that affordable pure digital camera is the best to behold. Also, he said, a HDTV enables such a practitioner to record programmes on television or live events to be viewed later, even when he may not be present once the time has been set.

He emphasised that with the popularly PDAs also known as pen-based computers, Palm top, Handheld PCs etcetera, reports could be filed at ease mostly where Internet access is available.

Equally, he explained that PDAs with the help of Stylus, defined as a ‘pen’ that does not write according to StylusCentral.com, makes navigation easier and can produce documents in Microsoft Words, Portable Document File (PDF), Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), which is a standard supported by most web browsers, “can also be used to write and file stories.”

He reiterated that Internet access is the ‘current’ with which to drive these emerging tools. Other words, “if all the information based on the aforementioned tools have been gathered, stored and not disseminated at this era to a global audience, then the essence is defeated.” Hence, anyone including media practitioners may not necessarily be present at the office to carry out their day-to-day activities as far as there is Internet access.

Also, Internet access affords users the ability to get involved in other aspects of the emerging technologies yet not fully optimised in developing economies such as webloging, podcasting (online radio), video blogging and online research.

Conclusion:

The media expert, therefore, suggested that in order to optimise the benefits of the emerging tools by anybody, such a person must get involved in ownership of some elements of these tools so as to give them adequate access even as media practitioners are not exempted.

“This can be achieved by owning a PC, which can be used to work at home or anywhere, then use the removable disk to copy or transfer your reports to the office or point of production, especially where the Internet access is not available, whereas owning a digital camera gives media practitioners of 21st century, the privilege to take images relevant and handy for his or her jobs and even the chance of making some little extra money from it,” he declared.

Above all, emerging ICT tools avail every enthusiast, the privilege to democratise history by incorporating multiple voices, reach diverse audience, encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past.



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