The information superhighway
The Information Superhighway
Thursday, November 17, 1994
The View From Taft, BusinessWorld
Where can you do all the following in the same afternoon: Visit the White House and be welcomed with a speech by President Bill Clinton, view the paintings at the Louvre Museum in Paris, converse with Lea Salonga, read the latest articles from Harvard Business Review without buying a copy, and confer with worldwide experts on business issues?
Is there such a place? Well, it’s not a place really; it's actually called by many names: cyberspace, information superhighway, info-bahn and I-way. It is the INTERNET, or to its avid users, simply the NET. The NET is a worldwide electronic network connecting millions of people to each other and to thousands of organizations and other vital sources of information through the computer.
The NET used to be a mass of confusion attractive only to the technically inclined and a few brave souls willing to wade through cryptic jargon such as gopher, ftp, telnet, tcp/ip protocol, etc. Not anymore. The NET is spreading into the popular landscape. Newsweek magazine has acknowledged this megatrend (to borrow a term from Naisbitt) by dedicating a regular section on the Internet, aptly called Cyberscope.
Two of the best things to happen to the NET far all of us ordinary mortals are the worldwide-web concept and a piece of software known as Mosaic. These two advances together have made much of the technical details about the NET unnecessary for the non-technical user.
Mosaic is a piece of computer magic made available for free (believe it!) by people at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through the use of the familiar point-and-click functions of a Windows-based computer, Mosaic makes the NET extremely friendly by bringing together formerly separate functions into one neat multi-media package. This means allowing you to get technical articles, use a computer in another country, copy computer software (“downloading"), listen to music, view breathtaking pictures, and yes, even view video clips from all over the world in the comfort of your office or home.
(For state-of-the-art fanatics: The recently released Netscape software is even faster than Mosaic. And, yes, it’s also free.)
While I hint at the literally endless possibilities, you would probably use the electronic mail (E-mail) first if you were a new user. Imagine that you're reading the latest issue of Fortune magazine and you don't quite agree with the dire predictions of one author. Do you seethe in indignant silence? Nope. You zap an E-mail to the magazine's NET address (FortuneMag@aol.com, in case you ARE seething over a Fortune magazine article) half-way around the globe and get the load off your chest with the knowledge that the author will receive the message almost immediately (most of the time anyway).
With your business card already crowded with a phone number, a cellular number, a beeper number and a fax number — why add a NET address? Simple. People on the NET respond almost instantly. When I reacted by E-mail to an article in PC Magazine, I half expected the editor of this international magazine to reply in a week. Well, this editor replied the next day, apologizing for the delay because she was "on the road" (Probable translation: She was answering my E-mail from a notebook computer plugged to a wall socket in her hotel room).
Anyone who has labored over sending a fax abroad and agonized over the response will find the NET a great relief.
E-mail, of course, barely scratches the surface of the NET. If you haven't yet attended a meeting with the chairperson in the US and with participants scattered all over the globe, you should try it over the NET. International computer conferencing is a mind-expanding experience since it allows you to get a live global perspective on any issue without leaving your office.
Researchers love the NET. While doing a study on total quality management, I was referred to a NET site where I have obtained dozens of TQM articles and computer software. SPCExpert, one of the first software I ever downloaded from the NET, automatically generates and analyzes quality control charts of all types and prepares Pareto charts as well. (Sorry, guys, it's free for schools but costs $200 for companies.)
While some of my business friends are happy to have the 1993 criteria for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, the 1994 criteria have been available on the NET for months.
I appreciate the way the DoST has jump-started our trip onto the 21st century by subsidizing the connection of several universities all over the country to the NET. De La Salle University is a heavy NET user at present, making available its newsletter, program information on academic programs and student services, the student handbook, and a host of other information.
For business entities interested to get a connection, Mosaic Communications in Pasig provides various connection modes at reasonable rates. Hundreds of business entities have connected to the NET abroad, in strategic anticipation of the colossal business opportunities that will be created by a medium that connects millions of people in a way previously unimaginable.
Remember, the information superhighway is useful and friendly. Most importantly, it's here. Get on it.