Bernardo M. Villegas
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Children’s Safe Journey Towards Digitalization

          Last September 7, the German technology firm Siemens organized an important event entitled “Shaping Digitalization—Leading the Journey in the Philippines.”   Leading experts from both the academe, industry and government spoke about the benefits and challenges of digitalization to industry decision makers.  Company representatives, all experts in their respective fields, presented existing digitalization models and roadmaps that have successfully created value through every step of the delivery chain.  There was special focus on some of the engines of growth of the Philippine economy such as the power, transportation, manufacturing and BPO-IT sectors.  As one of the speakers, I reminded the audience of what Thomas Friedman wrote in the best seller “Thank You for Being Late,” that the exponential increase in computing power defined by Moore’s law has a lot to do with digitalization.  The year 2007 was identified by Friedman as the major inflection point:  the release of the IPhone, together with advances in silicon chips, software, storage, sensors and networking created a new technology platform which Friedman calls the “supernova.”  He opines that the alternative term “cloud” does not capture the extraordinary release of energy that is reshaping everything from how we hail a taxi to the fate of nations to our most intimate relations.  Indeed, digitalization, together with globalization and climate change are transforming five key realms of daily life:  the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics and the community.

         The advantages of digitalization to society are unquestionable.  In the case of an emerging market like the Philippines, its major benefits go much beyond facilitating trade and productivity growth.  More importantly, it is contributing to inclusive growth, ensuring that economic progress is not leaving behind the more needy and less privileged citizens of the country.  Through improvements in financial technology, it is enabling the poor to have more access to credit and other banking facilities.  The millions of overseas Filipino workers are able to remit their incomes to their families more efficiently through all sorts of applications of digital technology.  These very same OFWs are able to minimize the negative effects of being separated from other family members, especially parents from their children, through Skype, Facebook and other social networking tools.  Greater accessibility of the low-income households to smart phones and similar devices, vital information is being shared more and more evenly across income groups.

         There is, however, a downside to digitalization.  I am referring to the unethical uses of the Internet and TV.  There are all the forms of cyber crime, such as ransomware.  In the U.S. recently, the widespread use of hate mail exploded into the debate about white supremacy.  Hate music has led to the proliferation of white power rock bands, whose songs are widely available online and are often used as recruiting tools for extremist groups.  A quick scan of You Tube shows many songs by well-known hate groups.  A search for Skrewdriver, one of the most notorious of these bands, turned up thousands of listings.  “Despacito,” a song composed by a Peruvian and sung by Justin Bieber, got billions of hits in You Tube.   Its lyrics were so pornographic that the Malaysian government issued a ban against it.  Pornography in the internet can be as addicting as drugs and can do as much, if not more harm, to the youth.

         As one of the leading guardians of morality in the world today, Pope Francis shared some advice about the use of television, smartphones, computers, tablets, etc. during a recent encounter with young people in Sarajevo.  The following were his pieces of advice:

         --Throw away bad books and switch off harmful programs.  “In this age of images, we have to do what was done in the age of books:  choose those that make me a good person…If I see that a TV program is not good for me, that it undermines good values and makes me vulgar, or has scenes that are not clean. I have to change the channel…”

         --Flee from the slavery of computers.  Fight against “bad fantasy, the fantasy that kills the soul.  If you, who are young, live your life connected to the computer and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom…Both on television and on the internet, there are unclean things ranging from pornography to semi-pornography.”

         --Say no to trash TV.  Also be careful about empty shows that don’t promote good values:  for example, shows that encourage relativism, hedonism, consumerism…We know that consumerism is a cancer in our society.”

         --Computers and TV’s in common areas at home.  “Some concerned parents do not allow computers in their children’s bedrooms….This is a small help the parents can implement to prevent their children from being exposed to all types of bad things.”

         --No family meals with cellphones.  “Being too attached to computers, to mobile phones, etc. harms the soul and takes away freedom.  You  become enslaved to computers, to mobile phones, etc.  Many parents have told me that while eating at the table with their family, their children are in another world with their cellphones.”

            I strong recommend that young parents today, who are called the millennials, implement these measures suggested by Pope Francis in the upbringing of their children who now belong to the next generation, the Z generation (all those born after the year 2000).  The Z generation will be the one most exposed to Moore’s Law and who will experience its effects, i.e., the doubling of the power of computers every two years and even less.  They will be the ones who will be born with an IPhone in their hands.  They are the ones who will be in most need for moral guidance in the use of digital technology.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.