22 August 2007

Points of View

If you want to make a rose garden, a field the size of baseball park is huge. If you want to build a city, a field the size of a baseball park is ludicrously small.

This analogy came from a conversation I had recently about Puerto Rico's infrastructure. The woman I was speaking to--with 15+ years of experience writing and researching telecommunications in Puerto Rico--was criticizing the people who say that We lack infrastructure. From My point of view, the people I hear saying that are the ones who live, breathe, eat and stake their livelihoods on that infrastructure...and they are right: We do lack infrastructure.

For one, We have a cultural bias, if not outright fear/disdain, for technology. I've said it before: We are "magical realism" where the U.S. and Europe are "science fiction." Ghosts and spirits don't have any use for computers.

In second place, We never had a technology boom, fueled by cash, cash and more cash, both as investment and reward. We'd LOVE to have one, but Our model is Silicon Valley and Our reality is Swamp Village.

Third, We place so much emphasis on the government to lead the way (because We are whiny children who want to be taken care of) that We then get upset when that government--operating with the carte blanche of Our vapid indifference-- screws things up royally. The case in point: Technology for education. We have done so poorly in this regard that the Federal government is withdrawing over $250 million in funding for education technology, basing the decision (rightly) on the premise that throwing good money after bad is stupid.

Imagine losing a quarter of a billion dollars in future investments when what you have at present is decidedly sub-par. How's that for leadership and performance?

Yes, We have more cell phones per capita than any other country than Italy. Is Italy a world powerhouse in economic growth?

Yes, We have a high percentage of people subscribing to cable TV and satellite access. But is that productive? Is that the technology infrastructure engine We really need?

Sadly, We still have a de facto telephone monopoly, now in the hands of a Mexican conglomerate. Will this mark the opening of affordable high-level Internet access along the lines of South Korea's almost 100% broadband access? Don't hold your breath. This same conglomerate has been largely responsible for Mexico's sub-par telecom development, though there as well as here, government corruption has played a significantly negative role.

Like I told the well-read writer, it's a matter of viewpoint. As an end-user of technology, she sees a huge field of play and wonders why it isn't enough. She is right: From her point of view, the infrastructure beyond her needs is huge. But from Our point of view, those of Us who look to propel Puerto Rico into a key-player presence on the global stage, based on Our needs, the current infrastructure is like a water can to a raging forest fire.

That same water can is perfect for a rose garden. It's a matter of point of view. But from where I stand, from where We the quixotic charge at distant windmills, there simply isn't enough. And We'd appreciate it if those who can't do anything right to help Us build what We deserve would get the hell out of the way and let Us do it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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