Back in my Peace Corps years, we were all eager to change the world. At least over a thousand of us who were in India in the mid to late sixties, but that all changed when Indira Gandhi sent us home. I have been back to India on two different occasions over the past decade. Technology has played a major role in India’s economic growth as a source of customer service and technical support to the rest of the world. But now many current local Indian authorities are increasingly clamping down on Internet and telecommunications access across the country. They have cited national security as the primary reason for restricting access. It also seems that local and state officials can conjure up other rationales. In one case, officials suspended social media apps to prevent cheating during a state exam for government accountant positions.
If India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to show American investors that his country has “the most open economy in the world,” he would do well to address these local practices from the national level. As I was often reminded during those Peace Corps years, India is the world’s largest democracy! The Indian government has taken steps to bring the country into the 21st Century: Its policies to reduce red tape, attract foreign businesses and expand digital services have enormous potential. It would be a shameful regression if these reforms fail to reach that potential because of suspended WiFi.
I know that Prime Minister Modi is not trying to change the world like those idealistic Peace Corps Volunteers of the sixties, but I believe that he can do something to preserve India’s digital future.
Ray Myers India 29
I would have thought that being President (so-called) of the United States was a full-time job, but I have certainly underestimated the current resident of the White House. Maybe he will rename this residence if he stays around long enough, but he is not really there that often. And most of the “conflicts of interest” concerns that I worry about don’t seem to bother government ethics watchdogs in Washington or, if they do, I am not hearing that much about it. Let’s face it, he has enough children and a large business organization so that he can hide safely in the shadows, and never be seen as a business benefactor. It’s all in the branding and getting the shrewdest legal expertise. Land of the free and the brave!
So what does all this have to do with technology? Let’s just say that they have free wi-if in all the rooms. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can explore what this new business venture is really all about. Don’t worry, you probably won’t see the Donald’s name displayed in any prominent way, so let’s just wink and go our merry way. The Trump Organization calls this new budget-friendly hotel line, the American Idea. This new hotel chain is making its debut in Mississippi, where Republicanism reigns. What a concept! Here is some of the promotional jargon: “a new three-star hotel chain with a patriotic flair, echoing (his) campaign slogan about putting America first and reflecting the organization’s promise to enter into new deals only in the United States.” America Idea will feature artifacts of American culture in the hotels, such as an old Coca-Cola machine in the lobby or American-made sundries in the rooms. Make America Great Again.
The South will Rise Again!
Now why would you want to make your coffeee shop wi-fi free? It may seem a bit nostalgic, but some cafe owners would like to bring back the art of the conversation in their shops. What a concept! You can actually sit at a table and converse with friends, colleagues, or perhaps even strangers, as you sip your coffee and discuss all the latest news and/or gossip. Just think, you can actually create your own Trump-free spaces where you can choose NOT to hear or see all the breaking news about his latest tweets and antics. I know that keeping up with him can be addictive, and unfortunately, he loves to keep you hooked.
Back to the coffee shop. Without wi-fi, these shops may soon become our oasis in the desert of social networking and instant communication on any topic at any time. Some shop owners do not see the wi-fi restriction as revolutionary but as a response to society’s deep immersion into all things digital that leads people to seldom communicate face to face. To promote conviviality, some shops have adopted a no wi-fi policy and gone a step further: doing away with some comfy furniture and narrowing counters to make them less accommodating for laptops.
So maybe we could all use a little more face time (not FaceTime) to actually talk about what is happening in this age of Trump. He may be addicted to always being in the news, but we should not be addicted to him. He is Not Making America Great Again.
As Maine goes, so goes the nation. Or at least we can hope so. Since this is an election year, I thought this might get your attention. The State of Maine, under Governor Angus King (now Senator) was one of the first States to require that computers be made part of public schools’ educational teaching and learning resources. See Maine Learning Technology Initiative began in 2002. Now nearly fifteen years later, many education and community activists are advocating for a broader initiative that would connect a a wider variety of Mainers across the State. Connecting institutions like libraries and parks is key to Intenet access for people with nowhere else to turn.
As recently reported in a national study, many low-income household are “smart-phone” dependent, making them more likely to suspend or cancel service because of financial problems. “And smartphones are less than ideal when it comes to filling out job applications or writing cover letters.” So the promise of connectivity for all Americans must be expanded to include more public institutions beyond our schools. Many of our citizens have nowhere else to turn.
Our public “anchor” institutions are the key. “Immediate action” by the Federal Communicatioms Commissiom and advocacy by other allied governmental and non-governmental organizations are the keys. This action remains long overdue.
This is not your mother’s or grandmother’s Barbie. I guess it was just inevitable in the digital age. After all, making toys and dolls is just like any other business. Kids want toys that do things, so let’s give them what they want, and they can chat away for hours with their little #Barbie friends and other “interactive” pals. Sounds like you can “program” your conversations with your dolls, and I would say that these discussions may become ones where the “programmer” can always know what the outcome will be. And please also know that there are many apps available for this type of digital play.
What a concept you may say. No more arguments with siblings and neighborhood playmates, just click and play. Don’t worry, there is also something for the boys that will allow them to be connected and interactive, #HotWheels. So many more options for cyber-play whenever and with whomever you like. Talk about living in the 21st Century. No more “child’s play.”
Don’t get me wrong. Technology can create so many more options for all children to learn and play. So many more ways to make a child’s world more inclusive of friendships not limited by time and space, or physical abilities. But let’s not forget that sometimes their best friends might just be where they are.
In this day and age, why not be connected to all the devices in your house through your handy smartphone? It may be easier said than done as one enterprising tech savy author discovered when he made this a do-it-yourself home project. Let’s just say that after all of his arduous efforts, that took quite a bit more time than expected, his wireless router broke!
Upon reflection, he concluded that some of the gadgets he was trying to install were “solutions looking for a problem.” Perhaps the most telling example of the frustration he felt was his security system with “night vision” that would send a security alert anytime a fly came within a few feet, which happened 5 to 10 times a night. He generalizes that while some gadgets were hard to set up, others take the simplest tasks and made them more difficult.
After this experience, he looks forward to writing a follow-up piece that will describe what happens when you have an expert connect your home to the “Internet of Things.”
Well maybe you really don’t need both if you are going to stay in a high-end hotel in midtown Manhattan, but that’s what really seems to be in demand these days. Busy business travelers (and others) must have speed and reliability in their connectivity to be competitive in today’s business and social worlds. And I guess that has become a necessity for us all in our daily business and social worlds.
Ironically with all this speed at your fingertips you may become mesmerized by your own ability to be virtually anywhere at anytime even in the midst of a city like New York. From my point of view, don’t become so attached to these digital devices that you miss the opportunity to “take in” all that NYC has to offer to satisfy any visitor’s interests.
Start spreading the news . . .