Experts convened at the School of Management Tuesday to discuss how technology can facilitate globalization across different sectors and how, in turn, to facilitate its advancement.
The Symposium to Explore Technology’s Impact on Society was designed to explore the impact of technological advances in the areas of health, education, law, non-profits, media and management, SOM officials said. Most of the discussion on the seven-person panel focused on technology’s evolving role in various sectors and obstacles to bridging technology gaps between different regions of the world.
Rajesh Hukku, chairman and managing director of i-flex solutions, said technology is an “equalizer” that, if used properly, has the potential to address social and economic discrepancies worldwide.
“In spite of political issues and different views, just as the wealthy can enrich the poor and in turn enrich themselves, the U.S. can benefit from nations like India and China becoming consumer-driven economies,” Hukku said.
World Health Organization Program Manager Joan Dzenowagis said the disproportionate availability of technology impedes its advancement in most parts of the world.
“Today, inequity is the biggest problem we face,” she said. “We look to growth in mobile technology to improve expectation and the market in other countries on the consumer side, and that is what really pulls development abroad.”
Dzenowagis said the global inequality of resources and technology are evident in the fact that it would take an average individual in Africa one year, four months and two weeks to save up enough to purchase the standard Microsoft Office package on his or her current salary.
But Clark Boyd, technology correspondent for BBC World, said the spread of technology continues to have a positive impact throughout the world, even if that impact is not as large as many might hope.
“People here tend to think of things like online blogs, podcasts, and cell phones as ways to communicate about trivial things, but in a different context that technology can do so much more,” Boyd said. “Blogs in Iran help people trade opinions, podcasts in Peru teach new agriculture techniques, cell phones in India help fishermen check market prices and in Kenya help individuals find out about new job opportunities. It completely changes their way of life.”
Johnathan Peizer, former chief technology officer for the Soros Foundation, also discussed his experience implementing technology in public schools throughout Central and Eastern Europe as a component of the foundation’s endeavors to promote civil societies abroad.
Yale computer science professor David Gelernter spoke about the ways technology is affording individuals all over the world the opportunity to receive a U.S.-style education. He said he sees the rise in computers as educational aids — and even replacements for a typical classroom experience, as seen in the case of online higher education — as evidence of technology’s potential to transform society.
“There are a number of factors to suggest that online higher education could change the U.S. educational landscape,” Gelernter said. “For a student looking at taking a class online, there’s a tremendous attraction in terms of the convenience, reduced price, access to reputable professors and minimization of the leftist bias commonly found in universities.”
Judith Gordon, a psychiatry lecturer and member of the Yale Bioethics Center, said she thinks the symposium provided the audience with many ideas to consider, particularly relating to international interactions and potential areas for further research and development. She said she was particularly interested in Gelernter’s ideas on how online higher education might revolutionize American education.
“Higher education is a resource to a country and a way of developing local community and social interactions,” Gordon said. “There are things gained as well as lost by having local universities, but I agree with [Gelernter’s] answer that there are both good and bad consequences of technology here, as well.”
Gelernter said that while he believes technology does have the power to drastically change education, he doesn’t think it will ever completely replace a traditional college experience.
“The education you receive at a U.S. school is a valuable commodity, and online higher education will make that radically more available to people all over the world, but I don’t think it will ever drive schools like Yale, Harvard and Princeton out of business,” Gelernter said.
Dror Goldberg SOM ’06, who helped to initiate the symposium, said he was pleased with the way the panel highlighted different aspects of technology across business and society as he said he had intended.
The symposium was moderated by YaleGlobal Online editor Nayan Chanda and funded by SOM’s Program on Social Enterprise, SOM’s Alumni Association, and the financial support of Joanne Landau SOM ’84.