Parcia: Science and technology is a matter of priority

By Richard Parcia

richard parcia

Some months ago, I wrote an article titled “BPO threat is very real” that got published in this site. Its no longer in Newsbytes.ph after a revamp was made but I found out it is still in cyberspace as an article in the tech pages of the on-line version of the Manila Standard Today. How it got there? I don’t know.

Nevertheless, I got reminded of it because my editor posted a status message in his Facebook account that sort of stirred a hornet’s nest. He lamented the news articles that are flooding his feeds which only talk about the new gadgets that are being showcased at the Consumer Electrinics Show in Las Vegas.

He complained that the local IT news field should focus more on covering S&T so that we, as a nation, can benefit from technology instead of us merely becoming end-users of consumer gadgets. (I’m not quoting him word for word)

Now, anybody who laments “gadget” news that come from the CES can be likened to a person who laments the deluge of Op-Eds about boxing after a prize fight. It won’t make sense. You’ll be branded as a modern day Canute or worse, a commoner, who wasn’t invited to the party.

However, he does have a point. If we are to believe that the road towards nation-building is a multi-sector endeavor, then the local IT press should do their part. And in this aspect, I share the opinion of the editor that the IT press is not doing its part. Well, at least, not wholeheartedly.

This is a serious charge from me that I expect raised eyebrows and questions like “Who the hell are you, seriously?” However, this is not an accusation born out of malice. It is more of a check in terms of what we want to achieve. It is more of a call for some reflection of what our priorities should be.

Again, my editor has a point. If we browse the articles written in the local IT press, a lot of it are product reviews. Most of the technological reports are prepared by the PR group of a tech company trying to highlight an upcoming product. Sometimes it is about products that were released ahead of time in the US and other parts but are yet to be launched locally.
There is hardly a report on something that our laboratories are trying to do. We often say that our universities are nowhere near the universities abroad. But that’s a political statement rather than something entirely factual.

Yes, our universities might not have the same equipment and exposure as those in Silicon Valley. But they do research that are not only applied but fundamental in nature.

How many of us know that UP has a photonics lab that can shoot lasers and make holograms? How many of us know that Ateneo has a Lidar system that is similar to the one that was used to re-discover a lost city in Cambodia? Or DLSU and UP students designing chips that are fabricated abroad?

Take for example, the topic of Conductive Polymers. It does sound alien. It’s too geeky even for the “geek” press. However, if we only dig deeper, the field of conductive polymers is a fertile ground of present and future technology. Think of monitors that Tony Stark is using. Think of the bionic suit that the folks from the GI Joes were wearing. Think of Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak. All possible applications of conductive polymers.

And here is good news for some: we have researchers who had been doing fundamental and applied research on this for years. In fact, I personally met one of the authorities on the topic in my university because she was my research director many years ago.

The bad news is that I hardly know of anybody up to now, and not just from the local IT press, that knows about conductive polymers and what they look like, outside of science and technology circles.

What’s all of these got to do with my old article? In that article, I warned the BPO sector not to follow the route of the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industry when they were still the hot industry of the country. The latter failed to put themselves at the top of value chain when it was still easier for them to do — a place driven by science and technology and not cheap labor.

In the latter’s time, except for a very few companies, there was hardly anything that were fed to the press about the roadmaps and the breakthroughs. In return, the press was cold about it and naturally relegated to sections that are only read by people who are already in the know or by those who have too much time in their hands.

The local IT press can help spread the word and put a spotlight on the need for us to think of that value chain, not just for the BPO sector, but for the whole IT sector. We need to be up there to be taken seriously in the tech world.

Instead of waiting to be fed with news by the scientists and technologists who are clueless about the journalistic world for obvious reasons, it’s time for our local IT press to go deeper and understand these technologies and translate the words of the scientists and technologists into something more fantastical and readable by the ordinary kid that it can spark imaginations.
It’s that important.

Scientists and engineering make the technologies but only the press can weave the stories about those technologies for everyone to appreciate. Innovation might be products of necessity but they were first thought of by dreamers that think of limitless possibilities.

After all, a smart fellow named Einstein once said that “to make your children more intelligent, read them more fairy tales”. So please tell those stories. Our stories.

The author received his doctorate degree in Development Studies-Technology Development from the University of Santo Tomas in 2011. He finished his computer science and masters degree at Letran College Calamba. He also holds a certificate in IT Project Management from the Asian Institute of Management. He has held various IT positions at Intel, Bayantrade, TriQuint, among others. His currently the IT manager for infrastructure incubation at the United Health Group.

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