Week 5.

Today’s topic was on Technology and ICT, which I felt was a topic that is extremely relevant in our lives and that piqued my interest. This is one of the main reasons why I chose to do my individual oral presentation on this topic, on Transliteracy.

We began the lesson with a video on the Virtual boy, Milo.  The video shed some light on the changes in ICT the next couple of years, as mentioned in the Global Information Technology Report, about how face, speech and even emotion recognition would infiltrate into our lives through the hands of technology. It is however both intriguing and scary how Milo is able to interact with Claire through the television screen, and it depicts how computers are becoming sentient. The first thing that came to my mind was the movie ‘Inception’, about how Dom Cobb’s wife eventually could not differentiate reality from her dreams. Won’t it be scary if people choose to live in their virtual worlds, and not step out of the house anymore? It will definitely disrupt the natural way of life and pose many problems should ‘virtuality’ become ‘reality’.

We also watched another video on the shift from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, which is essentially a semantic web where wireless infrastructure is easily available and search engines are able to troll the Internet more easily. One example is cloud computing, which seems like a really foreign term but it in fact has been existing in our lives since several years back. Google docs, emails and Facebook are all examples of cloud computing. In addition, the Million Penguin Wikinovel, which also uses the concept of cloud computing, depicts how traditional print media has transformed over the years to digital media.

Zhi Shu’s presentation on the impact of technology on the rural poor highlights the ways ICT can help the poor improve communication and enhance their development, especially in the areas of poverty, health and education. As mentioned in Reading 2, ICTs can help accelerate their economic and social development and eventually minimize the digital divide, along with the urban-rural divide. Thus in response to the question he posed to the class, “Is there a future for the rural poor in advanced ICT”, I feel that the government plays a key role in bringing ICT to the rural poor and in alleviating poverty. One such example is the one laptop per child policy (OLPC), which is to empower children in developing countries by providing a laptop to each school going child. Such initiatives have secondary and tertiary positive impacts on the personal, social and economical aspects and helps reduce poverty by creating opportunities for the people living in rural areas.

This brings me to the debate we held in class regarding whether assess to the Internet should be a human right. The Internet is essentially a tool to finding information and gathering knowledge, and it is an extremely powerful platform for interactive communication. In today’s increasingly borderless world and paradigm shift towards the knowledge economy, it is important that every human should have equal rights towards the Internet and assess to knowledge as it is to drinkable water and food. Technology enhances opportunity creation in many different aspects (social, economic, political) and it is the solution to alleviating poverty in many developing countries. Thus, I fully agree with Prof Shahi’s quote, that

ICT is the catalyst that facilitates the Knowledge Revolution

However on the flip side, the rapid advancements of ICT also brings about some dangers that we should be wary of, such as security concerns and identity theft. It is far easier to hack into someone’s email account these days, and with the increased number of global networks across the Internet, this poses a huge danger when it involves businesses and large firms with many stakeholders involved.

With the multitude of social media platforms these days (podcasts, digital video, virtual worlds, microblogs, wikis, social networking, etc), it is important that we involve everyone in the Digital Age, so as to create a more level playing field for both the developing and developed countries. What is important now, is how are we going to capture the full potential of ICT and distribute it evenly throughout the world. As with the urban-rural divide, we should use the Internet as a tool to narrow the digital divide, instead of further driving a wedge between the haves and have-nots.

I would rate this lesson an 8.5/10, as ICT is by far one of the most interesting and relevant topics in this course.

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Week 4.

Lesson 4 was on Drivers of World Change and Change Management and Change Leadership. I feel that the topics discussed were very relevant, as a lot of the key drivers of global change are present in our everyday lives, and in essence, we are THE change that is causing the world today to be different from what it was in the past, and what it will be 20, 30 years from now.

Out of the 14 major drivers of global change as mentioned in Reading 1, I feel that globalization, technology innovation and competition play a large role in our everyday lives. These 3 drivers are closely linked and if I were to illustrate them in a diagrammatical relationship, this is how it will look like:

Globalization is broadly referred to as the increased interconnectedness across national boundaries in social, economic and political arenas. Technology is a vital tool in the spread of globalization, as it enhances communication across countries previously hindered by geographical boundaries, by connecting people all over the world through creating a common ground for communication – The Internet. Competition is an important reason for innovation and development, which leads to change and progress. Essentially, I believe these are the three main drivers of global change and they are intertwined in our daily lives in more ways than we can imagine, in both a good and bad way.

Prof Shahi shared with us many interesting quotes during the lesson, one of which is “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw. The idea behind the quote is that one should always seek the unknown and be intellectually curious, because if we settle for the status quo, there will never be progress. While some may see “being unreasonable” as defiance, here in this case it refers to people who do not accept the status quo, I feel that some resistance is usually welcomed in society and it is common to find detractors along with the supporters. And most of the time, the brightest ones are non-conformists; they are the ones who lead the change.

Maneeha’s presentation on “CO2 and Climate Change” was really enlightening, as it never occurred to me that the increased concentration of CO2 is not the reason behind global warming. This alternative school of thought is indeed aberrant and it was rather fascinating that there are other possible benefits of raised CO2 levels, such as preventing the supposed ‘Ice Age’ from occurring and that global warming encourages plant growth. A question she posed to the class was pretty thought provoking, ‘Is attempting to stop climate change an expensive act of utter impracticality?’ In my opinion, utter impracticality seems too harsh a term. While it is undeniable that climate change is inevitable, humans have taken a disgraceful stewardship of the environment thus far, hence we should do what we can to control the current situation and try to sustain our current environment for the future generation as best as we can. As mentioned in the previous lesson, about 5 planets’ worth of resources are necessary to sustain our present standards of living. It may be slightly too late to start, but as long as we put a combined effort into managing a sustainable environment for both current and future generations, it may not be too late to change the way things are now and the way it will be in future. As mentioned by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We should take stewardship of our own doings, and creating a sustainable environment for our future requires individuals’ collaborative efforts to improve the global situation.

The second part of the lesson was on Change Management and Change Leadership. We discussed about the difference between leadership and management previously in another lesson, the former referring to the initiation of the changes in management processes and the latter referring to the implementation of the changes in management processes. With reference to the 3 options for change,

  1. 1. Make it happen (the proactive approach)
  2. 2. React when it happens (the reactive approach)
  3. 3. Wonder what happened (drawing reference to Singapore’s BLF.. hmm)

both leaders and managers take the first approach, but a leader is more task oriented while a manager is more detailed oriented. While the distinction is not too clear, I feel that a manager can take on a double role of being a leader and managing a team. One also has to be receptive to changes. Like that of a tree, one cannot be too rigid in his mindset, lest the trunk breaks, and one has to be good at adapting to his surroundings. This is applies largely in our daily lives, and in order to have big changes, one always has to start small.

I would rate the lesson 8/10, as the presentations were pretty good and eye-opening. I definitely did learnt a lot from the lesson.

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Week 3.

The themes for today’s lessons are Technology and Industrial Environment, and Technology and Innovation Management. We began the lesson with a quote by Prof Shahi,

Sustainability requires shift from linear to circular thinking.

Old Industrial Model: Economic Development vs. Environmental well-being
Sensible Industrial Model: Economic Development AND Environmental well-being

Circular thinking in this sense refers to the enlightened self interest approach. That means, one takes into account  and tries to minimize the impact of one’s actions on the environment. The linear system on a finite planet proves to be a flawed model as it is non-sustainable and Earth’s natural resources are gradually being depleted at the expense of our future generation. While watching the video Material’s Economy, it was pretty alarming how developed countries such as US are using up far more resources than they can afford. For example, an average person is using 60 times more energy than he ought to, and if this continues, 5 planets are required to sustain our current planet’s activities! This situation is indeed shocking and thought provoking. Are we able to save ourselves in time before the detrimental effects of global degradation get to us humankind? Or is it already too late?

Readings 2 and 3 centre on the possibility of  achieving economic well-being via alternative routes apart from industrialization. It is apparent that until today, most business models are still unsustainable. However in recent years, steps have been taken by firms to create value for all its stakeholders, besides the basic objective of profit maximization. Examples of such firms include Bodyshop and Starbucks, which believes in profit for good and are eco-conscious. In our local context, Singapore has moved on from a manufacturing based economy to a value added service oriented economy so as to maximize her competitive edge in the global rat race. A shift away from manufacturing activities would mean that the harmful effects of industrial production and waste is less prominent in our country. As mentioned by Prof Shahi, there is a disproportional relationship between environmental degradation and economic well-being in Singapore, as seen in the graph below:

Even so, in many other parts of the world especially in developing countries, industrialization remains the engine of growth for the economy. However, with heightened awareness about environmental degradation due to industrialization and manufacturing, there is more effort is in creating sustainable business models these days.

The lesson proceeded on to the presentations, “Urban Aquaponics” by Bernadette and “Clean Tech in Israel” by Yuhui. The presentation on “Urban Aquaponics” was pretty interesting, it’s a innovative idea that is a viable option in land scarce Singapore. However, how receptive are the locals towards urban aquaponics? Hydroponics generates only a small portion of our GDP, furthermore urban aquaponics is even more costly. Given Singapore’s economic situation, we may not be able to sustain such an industry. Thus a common consensus that the class came to after some discussion was that local companies should patent this idea and venture abroad where resources are cheaper.

Yuhui’s presentation on “Clean Tech in Israel” highlighted one of the issues that I mentioned earlier in this post, is newly developed clean technology sufficient for sustainability with the rapid depletion of natural resources today? My personal take is that consumers demand are increasing at an increasing rate, with the emerging Asian economies (China and India), thus the focus of firms are still cost efficiency and productivity. Though clean technology is gradually being embraced by more firms nowadays, it usually incurs higher costs than normal industrial practices, thus there is insufficient incentive for most firms to pursue clean technology.

The second part of the lesson was on “Technology and Innovation Management”. Addressing the question on whether innovation should be technology or market driven, I believe that a good balance of both would benefit a firm most. A new firm would tend to focus on market driven strategies to build up its reputation, and once it earns sufficient capital it would then leverage on its resources to research and develop new products to introduce to the market. I also found the quote by Tom Peters rather interesting, and it taught me that one has to be prepared to fail if one wants to succeed. It’s a tough fact of life that is very true, and I believe this will put me in good stead when I meet future challenges.

We were also shown a video of an advertisement for Andes beer, about the Andes teletransponder. I thought it was really creative and interesting, and it reminds me of those quirky inventions in the Japanese product market. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see it appear in Japan!

We wrapped up the class with the last presentation of the day by Leon, “How Google Grows… and Grows… and Grows.”  I like how visually attractive it was, with the minimal use of words in each slide and the focus on the imagery instead.

An article in today’s Sunday Times caught my eye: F1 has a green rival: S’pore G1. This event is one of the ways Singapore Environment Council (SEC) has pitched to introduce electric vehicles and greener technology in the local market. This is evidence to show how Singapore is taking steps towards sustainable development, and what caught my attention from this article is something that SEC executive director Howard Shaw mentioned, that there is a need for “matching infrastructure to serve the potential demand”. Thus in order to expand green technology in Singapore, companies would also have to consider the complementary demand for its products, here in this case, convenient venues for people to charge their electric cars.

I would rate the lesson a 7.5 out of 10, as we had sufficient discussion time and the topics raised on sustainability are of great importance in today’s rapidly changing global landscape.

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Week 2

This was my first TWC lesson, as some of my other classmates who attended Session 1 have reflected on their blogs , the topics raised are engaging and there was a healthy level of interaction between the Prof and us. I observed that the people in class come from rather diverse backgrounds, and it’s interesting to see how different people view a certain issue from different perspectives, which adds value to the discussions conducted during lessons.

BRIEF OVERVIEW

After a short introduction of the newcomers in class, we started lesson proper with a quick recap of the topics raised in Week 1. Prof Shahi raised a thought provoking question from a video Guns, Germs and Steel “Why do white people have so much cargo, but we New Guineans have so little?”

We commenced the first half of the lesson on “Technology, Society and Global Dominance” with a video on “China could already be world’s largest economy”. We explored various dimensions of global dominance and were introduced to the Shahi Organizational Behaviour Model for Identifying Innovative Leaders and Dominant Players, followed by 2 individual presentations by Dickson and Gabriel. We also discussed briefly about the 3 recommended readings, which centred on the topic of Colonialism.

The second half of the lesson was on “Technology and Human Development”, which began with a video on the  “Millennium Development Goals”, which are eight international development goals that 192 UN member states have agreed to achieve by year 2015. (With a mere 5 years left, is it really possible?) We examined how development relates to world change, and the various dimensions of development, before rounding off the lesson with two individual presentations by Dennis and Ji Shun.

INTERESTING OBSERVATIONS & IDEAS

Prof Shahi raised an intriguing point when we were discussing about gender inequality especially in education, that investing in a female’s education generates greater benefits than that of a male’s. The reason behind this belief is that females tend to share their knowledge and skills with their family, thus their children and extended family reap positive externalities as well. While this is not exactly related to technology, it is a societal issue worth pondering over. In countries where gender inequality prevails, education is more accessible to males than to females, which is highly unfair as I believe everyone has the right to education. The disproportionate entitlement to education is something worth fighting for, and I hope more could be done by the UN about this issue. That aside, what was noteworthy about this point is the perspective that the rewards from education varies between the two genders. I used to subscribe to the notion that the amount of benefits one reaps from education depends solely on one’s learning abilities, but what I failed to notice was the external benefits of knowledge and skill that others apart from the primary learner can derive.

The second thing that struck me most from this lesson, was Yali’s question from “Guns, Germs and Steel”“Why do white people have so much cargo, but we New Guineans have so little?” One main argument would be the geographical location of Papau New Guinea, compared to Europe. A good location encourages trade, which brings about competition. Competition between states creates the need for self-improvement and the ability to seek tools and instruments to move ahead with times, which generates wealth and prosperity. The New Guineans, who faced no external pressure to change, developed in isolation and never progressed, hence they stagnated industrially, socially and technologically.

KEY TAKE AWAY POINTS

“Change is inevitable and often necessary, the transition progress can often be difficult or painful (for some)”

Change can be seen as progress or regress. With regards to the triangular model, from both micro and macro perspectives,  companies, organizations and countries all take turns to be rising or falling stars, and/or dominant players. In terms of globalization, modern technological advancements could lead to the sacrifice of heritage and traditions. The spread of the Internet could lead to wider social networks but the dilution of relationships as a trade-off. Citing an example mentioned in the second recommended reading, Rising Up To The Global Challenge, one of the fundamental changes in the global economic landscape is the radical change in the economic map of the world – I mean the emergence of China as a ‘rising star’. Developing countries like China are highly vulnerable to the negative impacts of globalization, such as the urban-rural inequality, and societal issues such as unemployment and security. Such difficulties and problems faced may be foreseen, thus much can be done by the government to work with its people to put the country in a better position to face such challenges.

ISSUES FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION

Ji Shun presented on the topic of Singularity, however due to time constraints, there was little or no time at all, to discuss much about this topic. I believe that this term is as foreign to many of my fellow classmates as it is to me, and I hope more time could be spent discussing this in the next lesson.

OVERALL RATINGS FOR SESSION 2

I would give it a 7.5/10. 0.5 points was deducted due to the fact the the later part of the lesson was very rushed, and topics raised were merely skimmed through due to the lack of time. Perhaps with only 3 presenters in the following weeks to come, we will have more time for discussions and hence delve deeper into the issues raised. Overall, lesson was fun nonetheless. I like the idea of the Facebook page to update us about insightful readings, it is a good way to engage the students and is highly relevant especially in this course, Technology and World Change.

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something new.

Hi there,

I wish I had more to say but unfortunately I was unable to make it for my first lesson as I only got the bid on Wednesday. Glanced through a couple of blogs to get a rough idea of what Lesson One was like, lots of interesting topics raised. I’m fascinated by this whole blogging platform as a means to keep track of our learning progress, nice way to titivate the typical post-lesson reflections.

Hope theweeklychannel (it stands for twc if you have not realized) will be filled with meaningful and thoughtful insights in the weeks to come.

♥,
chels

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