Rational Technology for March 5, 2006
Procrastinator that I am, I'm writing this, as usual, just a few hours before my weekly deadline. I find that sometimes the pressure is helpful in squeezing out the ideas, and sometimes it just takes time to properly germinate the thought. This week is no exception, but added to that is that I am physically tired, the reason being two big local events for which I was drafted.
No, no, it's not that I'm complaining, because I'm not. I'm actually very proud to have been part of these events, and whatever physical weariness is more than offset by new ideas of new possibilities for the city. You'll have to pardon me if I exude more than my usual sense of optimism this week.
The two events of which I speak of are Silliman University's Engineering Expo 2006 and Foundation University's Digital Dumaguete Expo 2006. That they should come so close together might either be pure coincidence or institutional one-upmanship. Even if it were the latter, it's all played out to good effect because of the eventual interaction not only between the two universities but also the participation of other schools and local organizations.
Silliman's Engineering Expo was a one-day showcase of student projects from the different departments of engineering of the university. Whereas two years ago, the showcase was limited to computer engineering, this breakout year marked the first with full participation from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering.
And really, there was much to see in the expo. The folks from electrical engineering and computer engineering showed off projects revolving around RFID, programmable microcontrollers, robotics, and wireless communications. The mechanical engineers brought out their inventions for improved agriculture. The civil engineers whipped up their CAD-generated building designs and three-dimensional mockups.
The projects were a little rough, owing largely, I think, to budget constraints and time pressures, but by no means were they inconsequential toys. There are potential markets for these inventions, and if nothing else, the students who designed and built them have a good future in the industry because of the skills they demonstrated. Several of them could, in fact, be candidates for the next round of business plan competitions.
Now that I think about it, the episode leaves me a little upset. Why did Silliman University take so long to take these treasures out of their hoard? No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, and all that.
A day later and on the other side of the city, Foundation University ran Digital Dumaguete Expo. The expo had a slightly different flavor, aspiring towards a conference and trade show, but its impact was no less important. As a trade show, the Digital Dumaguete brought in several local IT companies to show off their products and their wares; in this regard, it succeeded: even I was surprised at the number of vendors who had come forward to make a showing.
Digital Dumaguete also succeeded as a conference, bringing in speakers from all over Manila, Cebu, and more importantly, Dumaguete. Joel Balajadia, head of Computer Studies at Foundation, working in concert with DOST's Gilbert Arbon, did a bang up job of pulling in these resources to talk about various aspects of IT.
The conference is important in raising local awareness about the industry, showing new paths of knowledge, and revealing possible career paths among the participants. And more importantly, it shows us that IT expertise within Dumaguete does exist, as evidenced by the local speakers (well, never mind that I was among the local speaking contingent).
So what makes me feel so optimistic?
First, these two events show us that, yes, we can run conferences and trade shows within the province. In fact, it's high time that we ought to be doing so. Conferences and trade shows are income-generating events for the province, and they bring in significant recognition and repeat business in tourism. Mind you, Digital Dumaguete and the Engineering Expo were not organized by professional events managers; how much more if they were? Pretty soon we're getting a trade hall set up, and we can hope that its calendar is consistently booked.
This should be a rousing call for locals students and faculty involved in the discipline of marketing to get out of their academic cocoons and get their hands dirty in organizing and promoting these events.
Second, it shows us that there's a skills base beyond the areas for which Dumaguete is traditionally known for. We're now looking at electronics design, information technology, architecture, and civil engineering, fields that haven't really received the publicity they deserve. What's more, this skills base is fundamentally important in our participation in the knowledge economy. We're talking about outsourcing opportunities here several notches higher than call centers and transcription, because these are skills that take a longer time to nurture and groom.
Where nowhere near that point as yet. These fields need to receive some form of critical mass, either in the number of qualified graduates we produce, or in some outstanding area of work that our schools become recognized for in industry. Even then, it's a glimpse of a possible future, and gives us something to work towards.
And as for me, I'm happy because I'll have so many more things to write about in the coming months -- about local innovations and personalities, at that -- that I won't have to agonize for too long about what to write.