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Número: 71
Año: 2002
Autor: Johann Van Reenen, Editor
Título: Digital Libraries and Virtual Workplaces. Important Initiatives for Latin America in the Information Age

IV. E-People and their E-ideas

As was stated above, the most important force is the growing power of ideas, which forms the basis of the Creative Economy. Because of globalization and ideas, the definition of Intellectual Property (IP) and ownership is changing. The best that organizations can do is to create an environment that makes the best people want to stay. This is exactly the environment in a competitive organization that must be created, protected, nurtured, and funded. Furthermore, synergy from multidisciplinary activities must be facilitated by tearing down old divisions between departments, sectors, colleges, and alike. The advanced organizations have gotten so efficient at producing physical goods that most of the workforce has been freed to provide services or to produce abstract goods, that is, data, software, books, music, entertainment, advertising, that is, digital content. For instance, new competition for academia is coming from industry expanding into Distance Learning, creation of content and ideas. The bad turn is that theft of intellectual property is lethal to innovation. But overly strict enforcement of IP protections can dampen innovation as well as lazy IP owners. Organizations will have to strike a delicate balance: reward mechanisms, enforce patents, copyrights, trademarks, and non-compete clauses to preserve the incentives to create, but not so much that it suppresses competition.

Education is likely to become even more essential to prosperity in the future. The five fastest growing occupations are computer-related. Organizations facing a shortage of talent are likely to respond through a combination of training, exporting work offshore, and looking for ways to de-skill certain jobs. A chronic shortage of skilled help will be accompanied by a change in the mix of people in the workforce. The long-term trend toward earlier retirement has recently been reversed, and the ethnic mix of the workforce is changing because of the influx of talented immigrants. That translates into more women and minorities in the workforce. To retain employees corporations will begin providing services that in other times were provided by the government (child and elder care). Employees will handle more work matters at home and more personal matters at work. Presently, Web-based education in the US is expected to grow from $197 million in 1997 to $6 billion in 2002. In Latin America and the Caribbean the exponential growth in Web-based education can also be seen, from almost $0 to $2.5 billion in year 2000. Clearly, education via the Web is great business but we must be careful. What now must be addressed are Quality Control issues in education in general. In addition, curricula reform is essential for development. Education must become a dynamic process instead of the current static model. Teamwork must be encouraged as well as working in multidisciplinary environments where opportunities are created, ideas generated and entrepreneurship fostered.

Currently, the volume of available information is being doubled every 5 years, and it is estimated that by the beginning of the next century this information will double every 72 days. In order to effectively utilize this information, the solutions to problems require multidisciplinary work teams and collaborative technologies that allow both synchronous and asynchronous interaction. These solutions must the results of projects that take a minimum amount of time from the genesis of an idea and to its actual implementation. In the system solution, we are referring to projects labeled both “hardware” and “software”, and the line that separates them becomes increasingly blurred.

Worldwide the demand for IT personnel far outstrips supply. In the US, this causes the delay of development schedules, projects to go over budget, and hamper expansion plans. Vacancies affect more than 10% of IT jobs in an organization, turnover represents 10%, and in the Silicon Valley turnover represents 20%. Current estimates indicate that the shortage of IT personnel will last ten to fifteen years. It is estimated that this will have an effect of negative 5% growth in GDP over the next 5 years. This translates into a loss of 200 billion dollars, almost one thousand dollars for every citizen.

In the US, the number of degrees awarded in this area fell from 42,000 in 1986 to 24,000 in 1997. Additionally, industry leaders have indicated that the degrees and the quality of the professionals do not adequately address their needs. University programs have been slow to react to changes in the marketplace, and their degree programs are based on outmoded technologies. Stated briefly, recent graduates have been trained in technologies that are no longer used. As a reaction to this, many companies collaborate with universities to update their curricula, or they create their own universities. In order to retain their employees, industries have placed a priority on Continuing and Advance Education Courses.

This lack of professionals translates into a dead weight for the economy. There are 850,000 potential job openings for IT workers in the US, and universities are producing 1/6th of what is needed. In Europe the number of potential IT workers is 1.2 million. The question to be asked then is: – where will industry turn to find the talent that is needed?

The globalization and integration of the world’s markets will lead industries to search for this talent in other parts of the world, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to trends and studies conducted by American industries, the next decade points to Latin America and the Caribbean. The Latin America and the Caribbean markets are subject to this process of globalization, and in order to ensure more suitable development, these markets must be restructured. Various governments, educational institutions, research facilities, and industrial firms have great interest in establishing efforts of cooperation in technical fields. The identification of areas of common interest is also crucial for the investment in appropriate resources. In the next ten years the population of Latin America and the Caribbean will have a workforce of 120 million, another 120 million will be in schools, and the amount of people in poverty will be 140 million. Clearly, hands-on education, research, and technology transfer in state-of-the-art technology and science is critical for the success of Latin America and the Caribbean. More importantly, Latin America and the Caribbean must take advantage of their second chance to integrate among themselves.

In order to address these challenges, the US has launched three initiatives to increase academic and R&D resources. These are: vBNS, Internet 2, and Next Generation Internet (NGI). These projects, proposed by Vice-President Al Gore and known as Global Information Infrastructure (GII), are instruments created within the US’s independent vision, and unique to that country’s development and needs. This is precisely what the Latin American and Caribbean regions need in order to develop and avoid an unnecessary technological dependence.