My wish list: the Top 10 changes to Guam technology that I’d like to see in 2002

by Jason SalasMonday, November 26, 2001

The fact that technology is going to continue to play an integral role in the recovery and growth of our island’s economy is undisputed – I just want to make sure it’s done right

Being a local information technology professional, I’ve been thinking lately about what new opportunities loom on the horizon for Guam, and what I’d like to see come to fruition in the coming year. It’s a pretty safe assumption that we can make great strides by planning right, timing strategically, and marketing effectively. Consider this my “wish list” for the upcoming New Year.

This isn’t some desperate plea in my position as a member of the media to get prices drastically reduced for Internet access or DVD players, because I’m not fool enough to think that that would actually ever happen, no matter what I did. Rather, I’m taking a brutally honest look at what changes can very well be (and damn well should be) made in the near future to really progress our use of technology for the improvement of the economy.

So without further ado, here in no particular order are the areas I really hope to see change in within the next 12 months:

  1. Better encouragement and support for e-commerce. The main reason opportunities for local entrepreneurs has consistently gotten shot down time after time in terms of setting up an online shop has been the guardedness that local banks have in approving merchant IDs (the required credit-checking and validation component for e-commerce sites; the online equivalent of the card-swipe machine used in brick-and-mortar stores). This is due to the high chargeback rate resulting from faulty transactions, which is a higher risk for the bank. Local banks have to date only granted such components to only the oldest and/or most established of Guam businesses, or to ISPs. Lending institutions need to be more liberal in their support of e-business models and foster the growth that could come from Inarajan Joe selling guguria online.
  2. Will the real wireless provider please stand up? Anyone?  No? OK, then…I guess I’ll wait. Clarity/quality of service notwithstanding - that issue has been well documented already - I really want to see 3G mobile communications implemented effectively and used correctly, with an affluence in the use of PDAs (personal digital assistants, like the Palm Pilot and PocketPC devices) and the true integration from personal and business consumers alike of wireless/mobile applications over a variety of computerized devices using the Internet. Current wireless providers and ISPs have not as of yet setup a WAP gateway to facilitate the mobile Web, thus limiting the ability of local companies to extend the effectiveness of their internal communications systems by making them truly mobile. This involves data convergence – way beyond the scope of the pager or cell traditional phone. But, this carries just as much pressure on local developers as it is for service providers. If someone establishes a mobile/wireless app framework, we still need people to build content applications that enough stuff will be on there to make it worth the while. So developers: start reading up on coding WML pages – you’ll need it.
  3. Advances in telemedicine and healthcare technology. How often have you heard the phrase, “My hip has really been aching for a couple of days now…I’m flying out to Hawaii next week.” Once the problems with GMH simmer down (if ever), we should really concentrate on implementing state-of-the-art systems to care for the ailing, and provide relief to the suffering – here at home. Put it into perspective…is there really any critical need more important than healthcare?
  4. More networking – offices online, connected classrooms. It’s hard enough to find a company or organization here with a state-of-the-art, networked computer environment outside the scope of simple file and print sharing, much less one that is truly Internet-integrated. Especially in these times of economic struggle, workplace information systems will improve productivity by cutting down on costs and letting more work get done…faster, and makes involving the Internet in workflow processes easier. Most software developed these days is built with integrating the Internet with a corporate LAN in mind anyway…sadly a component that’s grossly underutilized because so many people continue to work on standalone machines. And it goes without saying that DOE schools in particular need to provide better access to the Internet for our kids. Connectivity is the key to learning in this new age.
  5. More Web publishing by local companies. You don’t have to know the idiosyncrasies of HTML, and you shouldn’t have to be a computer whiz to be able to put your stuff online, but people from all walks of like really should start putting their work on the Web. To date, there’s lots of great information about Guam online…stemming from only about 9 or 10 sites. Organizations need to establish their presences online and propagate the wealth of information about us out in cyberspace. Third-generation Web management preaches data-driven applications as the main element of sites, in addition to fancy pictures, aesthetic layout design, and marketing fluff. And for the organizations that are the logical first-step for “selling” Guam (heads up, GVB…) more timely and topical information about us is really needed up - frequently. And this wouldn’t require a trip to Japan.
  6. Better coverage of technology by the media. OK, go ahead…label me a hypocrite. The occasional story or featured piece on popular consumer tech is nice, but we seriously need to ramp up the game…and soon…especially by print media. We collectively give rise to demand by educating consumer markets about other opportunities in IT besides the release of “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 2002”, and by doing more analytical-type pieces on the real applications of information technology here in the Pacific, and its impact on human life. Again, more publishing to the Web of written content helps get the word out about us. This leads to the introduction of new products and empowers a workforce to get schooled in various technical disciplines. But this requires writers, reporters, columnists, and journalists to get their facts straight when it comes to documenting in what order the 1’s and 0’s come.
  7. Get someone in here who can figure out how to use Oracle. I mean this both literally (for GovGuam) and figuratively (for the island in the round). Having IT professionals skilled in technologies other than those produced by Microsoft (easily the dominant player on island) will give companies choice and balance, and will reduce the total cost of ownership for their information systems. I’d like to see local organizations migrate away from the older RPG-based AS/400 and RS/6000 mainframes, and upscale to more Internet-centric systems. Implementing business-level systems running J2EE, IBM WebSphere, various flavors of UNIX, etc. will be better for the island’s economy, developing our technological infrastructure at the microeconomic level, and business overall. The big push would be advanced communication for the development of cost-efficient B2B and B2C-type of applications.
  8. Training and peer communities. One of the reasons the majority of the local developer community are only now really starting to come into their own in terms of the their skill sets is largely because they’ve had no formal training, having to learn everything on their own over a number of years. Guam doesn’t possess a large enough population of developers to warrant the establishment of a huge training center, but seasonal training seminars and forums where developers, networking professionals, and project managers could exchange ideas, network (in the social sense), share experiences, and learn from others is integral to expansion and progress.
  9. Better education from GCC and UOG. We need to empower the next generation of leaders with the skills necessary to take us to the next level, and not ill-equip them to work on older, outdated technologies, or provoke them to jump ship for the States. At the university level, computer science majors are taught from a curriculum which exposes them to coursework which has them go take whole classes each in learning legacy languages like BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN; and then only in their last year become briefly exposed to topics such as UNIX programming, C++, Java, VB, object-oriented programming theory, and COM (if at all). We need to provide talented kids an education in the advanced skills they’ll need to become effective technical managers. GCC made the right move by becoming a regional partner for the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum earlier this year, and the institution continues to provide training in fiber optics, wiring, and other disciplines. More activity along these lines will ensure we keep our local talent truly local.
  10. Strategic alliances. Too often Guam companies will try to do something entirely on their own, rejecting the notion of forging a partnership with another company because they fail to see the point. This is evident both in the product development cycle and for cross-marketing initiatives. There is strength in numbers, and companies need to concentrate on solidifying their own core competency and solicit others to provide their own expertise for a powerful co-branded end product, and then milk it for all its worth by promoting the relationship with the other company. This makes for a powerful end product.

It's notable to point out that the opinions reflected above are not necessarily those of KUAM or our advertisers, but are pretty accurate with that of more than 60,000 consumers, developers, service providers, and IT professionals on Guam.

I guess the big hurdle to make many of these dreams come true would be the “Who will start first?” factor. Guam companies traditionally aren’t too big into the concept of time-to-market, with organizations relying on the fact that someone will flinch first, with various rival firms following suit thereafter with their own take on a new product or service (side-stepping all of the bumps and bruises normally associated with doing something for the first time), sort of like a corporate game of “chicken”. Somebody needs to take the initiative and get the ball rolling. But again, all of the above are very doable, if the organizations involved just put their heads together. I’ll be satisfied with evolutionary technology if we can’t have revolutionary technology just yet.

I’m just a humble Web developer, and I’m trying my hardest to do my part…I hope the right people were also reading and feel compelled to do the same.

What changes in technology do you want to see made to Guam? E-mail me and we’ll feature you comments in the next installment of Tech Talk!

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