Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Value creation through the transformation of information

Chin Wong and Fatima Lasay have already weighed in on the Philippine ICT Roadmap in their respective blogs. I thought I might do the same here. The June 5, 2006 version of the roadmap is available in PDF form.

Chin Wong calls the document unininspired, and I tend to agree. It's banal in its use of by-the-numbers government-speak and motherhood statements. It's really not something soaring or inspiring, and that's what we need right now.

Its main deficiency, as I see it, is that it was written with a 1990s mindset when business and governments were scrambling for access. Access is, as the roadmap admits, at the heart of the program. However, the market and the opportunities have already shifted to a different level. Yes, access is still an issue that must be addressed, but to be truly visionary and landscape-changing, the roadmap cannot have that as its heart anymore. Access has become merely a secondary instrument.

Instead, I would suggest a guiding principle that centers around the creation of value through the transformation of information. I know that sounds like consultant-speak but that's actually the principle by which business process outsourcing (BPO) outfits and contemporary Internet services operate. The value comes from the transformation of information into something more useful and more meaningful.

Some examples to support my case:
  • Medical transcription agents convert audio recordings of medical records into text suitable for storage into a database. By effecting this transformation, they create value.
  • Contact center agents act as an interface between clients and database information. Agents also transform abstract, often complex, information into bits that their customers can understand. Hence, they create value.
  • Social networking sites aggregate personal information and establish links between subscribers based on common criteria. They provide value by defining and showing those links. A twist to the concept, common to the so-called Web 2.0 services, is that the user becomes the manager of his information.

  • In all these cases, value is created from the transformation of information into something more meaningful. The power is not in the access; the power comes from the context of information, from its meaning.

    In the same way, this is where the power of computers come through. It is in their ability to transform information quickly, programmatically, and automatically and output that in myriad ways.

    So how does this apply as an ICT roadmap? All initiatives should be geared towards the creation of value. The core of ICT, after all, is primarily about the transfer and transformation of information so it would be redundant to claim access as the goal. The value ICT provides emanates from the various levels of meaning one achieves from that transfer and transformation that is enabled by technology.

    The objective then becomes one of helping citizens access, create, and transform information into something that is meaningful to them. This transformation either results in more information that feeds back into the system, or a guide for action in the real world.

    In lieu of the original goal of creating a
    "people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life"

    I would suggest
    "people-centered, inclusive, and value-oriented Information Society where everyone can access and utilize information and knowledge that is meaningful to them and in like manner transform and share that information which is meaningful to others. This Information Society enables individuals, communities, and peoples to first of all define their identities and map out their roles in the globally interconnected world, and in so doing help them achieve their full potential."

    It's not perfect, and it seems a trivial thing to spend time on, but I think we have to begin with that principle in mind.

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