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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Instant intercontinental communication is free, October 7, 2007, 2D.

Have you ever tried to imagine the wonder that people who lived in the past would experience if they were alive today?  The machines and technology that have come into being in recent decades would astound even our parents and grandparents.  Thomas Friedman, in his book “The World is Flat,” describes the history and development of today’s information technology.

As a real life example of the flattening effects of modern information technology, I used my digital camera to shoot videos of the students in my e-commerce class at The International University in Vienna while they worked on a group assignment.  During class, I downloaded the videos to my laptop, imported them into a movie-making program on my computer, downloaded free background music, created a video, and uploaded it to YouTube.com using my laptop’s wireless Internet connection.  Within one hour of shooting the first video, the completed video was on the web for the world to see.  Many of my students text messaged friends to watch the video on the web—which many did and instantly reported back to those in our class.

Another “flat world” example that occurred during my time at IU Vienna involved a guest lecturer in the same e-commerce class.  A colleague at Hardin-Simmons University wrote our textbook; I wanted my students to meet him and hear of his experiences.  Using Skype, an Internet-based voice and video transmission program, and two laptops with web cameras and microphones, my colleague sat at his desk at HSU and delivered a lecture and answered questions from the students in my class in Vienna, Austria.  Video images of the students in my class were displayed on his laptop, and video of him speaking to the students was projected on the wall of my classroom through a computer projector.  This experience was conducted in real time and involved no cost—because we already had access to all the necessary equipment.

Making this story even more interesting was the fact that an Abilene television station reported on the story and aired it on the evening news.  A friend in Abilene recorded the news story using his DVD recorder and then uploaded it to my YouTube.com account.  The next day in Vienna, I was able to pull up the story on YouTube.com and show it to the class in Vienna.  They saw images of themselves that were displayed on a laptop in Abilene, broadcast on Abilene television, uploaded to the Internet, and downloaded for viewing in Vienna.  All of this was done with no cost and minimal effort.

Today’s information technology is changing the ways that people communicate, live, and work with each other.  Many of these technologies are readily available and inexpensive to use.  Organizations of all types should be aware of the ways that today’s information technology can improve the ways they conduct business.  Embracing new technology can be a form of competitive advantage for companies—not doing so can leave them behind the times and behind the competition.

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved