Ike Señeres .
IT may just be a play of words, but I do believe that “Digital Transformation” is a misnomer because it is the society that should transform, and not the digital infrastructure. In other words, we should be using the term “Social Transformation” instead, with the clear understanding that we are merely using digital technology to transform society. However, we should be very careful about saying that, because digital technology does not directly change society itself. To be more precise, we should say that digital tools could change the way people behave and in doing so it could change society itself. In a somewhat related point of view, we could say that the so-called digital divide is really just an offshoot of the social divide, meaning to say that people would not have access to the digital world, simply because they could not afford it.
From a strictly technical perspective, it could be said that digital transformation is needed in order to make digital technologies more accessible to more people, so that these could be used as tools to enable social transformation. In that context, it could be said that the bottom line is to provide more people with cheaper and faster connectivity, and nothing else. It could be argued that devices are also needed, but that is seemingly moot and academic, because devices are already a dime a dozen today, and practically everyone could now afford them. Assuming that that would still be an issue, perhaps some way could be found so that low income people could rent devices from internet cafes at very low prices. If not that, then perhaps the government should encourage mall owners to put up more kiosks that people could use for free.
Going back now to the topic of the digital divide, it seems very clear now that the solution is to enable people to have a source of income, so that they would be able to pay for the devices and the means of connectivity. One way or the other, the case in point is similar to the problem of hunger. Some might say right away that instead of giving people fish to eat, we should teach them how to fish instead, and it is implied in that statement that we should also give them the means to fish. From my own perspective however, I would rather say that it is better to give people the means to livelihood, so that they could have the income needed to buy their food. So as you can see, the problem of hunger is actually a problem of livelihood, in much the same way that the problem of the digital divide is really a problem of livelihood also.
Something is happening in the outside world that we should take note of. The global telecommunications giant AT&T has bought Time Warner and what that means is that more than ever, companies in the business of connectivity are merging with, or are converging with companies that are in the business of content. To some extent, something of that kind has already happened here, when the PLDT Group bought Channel 5. To some extent, ABS-CBN is already moving towards that direction, being a connectivity provider through a network sharing with Globe Telecommunications, but still continuing to be in the business of providing content. To further dramatize this trend, it is widely reported that Comcast is bidding for 21st Century Fox, with Disney as the competing bidder.
Aside from the convergence of connectivity and content, we should also take note of the growing convergence of broadcasting and streaming, two separate technologies that are now becoming one, faster than ever. Also take note that many people who used to watch broadcast television in time bound programs are now watching video in demand shows via streaming. As a matter of fact, viewers of broadcasted television shows via ABS-CBN could now watch the same shows via iWant TV, a streaming host that it also owns. While we are experiencing convergence all around us, we may not have noticed that much that the same devices that we use to communicate with each other are now being used to educate each other, as well as to entertain each other. While some might look as entertainment as having a lower social value, it could not be denied that access to education is indeed an issue that the emergence of convergence could address.
Between all the agencies of the government, one of them or some of them should now plan and strategize how streaming could now be used not only for education in the form of e-learning, but also for medicine in the form of e-healthcare. Since these two functions would cut across many government agencies, perhaps it is time to form task forces that could be led by the most relevant or the most active agency. To give credit where credit is due, it appears that the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) is now doing a good job in trying to solve the problem of heavy vehicle traffic in Metro Manila. I am not saying that they have already solved the problem, but at least they are making some progress. Perhaps I-ACT could become the model in the formation of task forces that could work together to solve national problems by way of using digital technology.