DOING THEIR PART
CONSIDER WHAT OUR WORLD WOULD BE LIKE WITHOUT THE
PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR TODAY'S TECHNOLOGY.
BY EILEEN FERETIC
BASELINE NOVEMBER 2008
WHEN ASKED TO NAME INDIVIDUALS
who have made a difference in the world,
many people mention volunteers in humani-
tarian groups such as the Peace Corps,
Habitat for Humanity or Doctors Without
Borders. Some cite health care workers,
teachers, police officers, fire fighters, or
government and religious leaders who have
worked to make the world a better place.
Not many of us are likely to include IT
leaders in this august group. But maybe we
should rethink that. Consider what our
world would be like today without the people
responsible for all the technology advances
we’ve come to take for granted.
Suppose Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn hadn’t
designed the TCI/IP protocols and basic architecture
of the Internet. And what if Tim Berners-Lee hadn’t
developed the World Wide Web server and client? The
innovations of these individuals—and many others in
our industry—have resulted in innumerable benefits to
people around the world.
For one thing, information technology and the Web
enable us to deal effectively with global problems that
require vast computing power and the collaboration of experts
in various parts of the world—challenges that would be hard
to manage without IT. Global warming is a good example.
A report produced in 2006 by the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, “The Climate Collaboratorium: Harnessing
Collective Intelligence to Address Climate Change Issues,”
stated: “Like nothing else, dealing with climate change calls
upon us to engage in effective collective decision making on a
global scale. … Building upon the foundation of the Internet,
it is now becoming possible to harness the collective intel-
ligence of thousands of people around the world to address
this and other critical systemic problems.”
Health care is another area in which IT advances play a
major role. The use of mobile technology and electronic health
records is improving diagnoses and treatments, enhancing
patient privacy, bringing health care to remote areas and, in
many cases, reducing costs. And potential benefits are huge.
In “Prescription for Change,” published in The Wall Street
Journal in October, Amar Gupta wrote: “IT security will even-
tually meet the expectations of the health care industry. …
When it does, powerful IT networks crisscrossing the globe
will change the way much of health care is delivered.” Gupta
wrote that the advantages will include “more efficient health
care at the most cost-effective rates”, “more medical records
to be transferred swiftly and securely,” and the
ability of health care professionals and their
patients to “find authoritative and up-to-date
information on every specialty online.”
In the public sector, think about how IT
advances have helped federal, state and local
governments provide better service to their
constituents—many times, at less cost. All of
us have benefited from the ability to conduct
government transactions online: applying for
various licenses, checking local regulations,
requesting assistance and doing our taxes.
One government standout is Teri Takai,
California’s CIO. When she
was the director of IT for
Michigan, Takai merged the
state’s IT into one depart-
ment, saving taxpayers about
$100 million. Clearly, she has
a lot of colleagues in this quest
to improve the efficiency and
cost-effectiveness of govern-
ment through the use of IT.
When it comes to national
security, there are numerous individuals who promote the
use of technology to safeguard our country. These include
Howard Schmidt, formerly chairman of the President’s
Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, and Rear Admiral
Elizabeth Hight, vice director of the Defense Information
Systems Agency, where she provides the president and military
with global Internet-centric solutions.
Education is another industry in which IT leaders have made
substantial contributions. Technology enables collaborative
research on a global basis, lets students work on laptops and
PDAs, provides digital textbooks and offers online courses.
Even nonprofits are profiting from advances in technology.
Research has shown that electronic fundraising increases the
number and size of contributions these organizations receive.
Technology has improved our quality of life in many ways,
and numerous people have made IT viable and available. Our
list of 50 of these individuals, developed by Baseline’s readers
and editors, is admittedly incomplete. (See “ 50 Who Make a
Difference,” page 26.) But the story does illustrate the vital
role played by technology creators, leaders and evangelists. 3
The innovations of these
others in our industry—
have resulted in
innumerable benefits to
people around the world.
EILEEN FERETIC IS THE EDITOR OF BASELINE. SHARE YOUR
THOUGHTS ABOUT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY LEADERS
WITH HER AT EILEEN.FERETIC@ZIFFDAVISENTERPRISE.COM.