Thu, Feb 08, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Pay more attention to the Internet

By Nan Fang-shuo 南方朔

Among the many issues of the day, perhaps those most worth noting are the state of the high-tech industries and the fact that, since becoming US president, George W. Bush has made education a significant item on his policy agenda.

Prior to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, high-tech industry leaders admitted that high-tech stocks currently are indeed facing a huge predicament. Faced with the current crisis, it is most important that the entire industry restructure and renovate.

Bush has made education a focal point of his administration. The heads of 16 software, hardware and Internet companies arranged to meet with Bush, recommending that he connect "e-learning" to educational policy reform. This will not only help the high-tech industry, but will also be beneficial to the US' future in general. Only by strengthening e-learning will it be possible for US education to see any significant improvements in quality. The recommendation made by these 16 US high-tech leaders shows extraordinary foresight, and is worth noting.

When high-tech stocks began their nose-dive in the middle of last year and e-commerce performed below expectations, high-tech leaders worldwide began to consider an even more basic question: if the high-tech bubble bursts, it will be an indication of problems in its "virtual side." What fields will still have potential in the "real side" of high-tech? At a global high-tech conference in London at the end of last year, many pointed out that e-learning and e-medicine, two areas that have largely been overlooked, are actually best suited to the nature of high-tech, and hold great potential for development.

If these two domains can be successfully developed, the future of high-tech won't just be about making money, but could be used to advance the collective prosperity of mankind.

In terms of e-learning, developments in US higher education over the last 10 years are already visible. Many institutions of higher learning have BA, MA, and PhD courses available over the Internet, with as many as 2,000 plans for Net-based degrees currently in existence nationwide. It is thus conceivable that, if e-learning continues to expand, and becomes a part of the globalization process, Taiwanese students will soon be able to study at home, and receive formal degrees from famous US universities over the Net. Because e-learning is becoming increasingly important, many countries, including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong -- and even China -- have already begun to strengthen planning in this area.

As for e-medicine, during these times of "Neticization" and digitalization, medical resources can be made even more accessible. This carries implications for patients in remote areas, whom it will enable at least to receive diagnoses. Professional medical Web sites of this kind have already begun in the US.

Taiwan still lacks a basic understanding of both e-learning and e-medicine. With the whole world working hard to advance in this area, we should give these issues careful consideration.

Nan Fang Shuo is publisher of The Journalist magazine.

Translated by Scudder Smith

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