INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS

 

Volume XI, Number 4                                                                                                          November, 2004

 

A quarterly newsletter for clients and friends of Chenault Systems

Copyright 2004 Chenault Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

 


The Digital Divide

-- By Adam Thierer

Few high-tech policy debates have attracted as much attention in recent years as the debate over the so-called "digital divide."  Policymakers of all stripes, and at all levels of government, are considering what steps should be taken to solve the apparent gap between the technological "haves" and "have-nots" in America.

But while some "Chicken Littles" decry a world of "technological segregation" or "classic apartheid" in a shameless attempt to turn this into a civil rights crusade, the reality is that Americans are gaining access to telecommunications and Internet technologies at an almost unprecedented rate when compared with technologies of the past.  For example, while it took over fifty years for 50 percent of Americans to gain access to electricity, and over seventy years for 50 percent of all households to receive phone service, it has taken less that twenty years for 50 percent of Americans to gain access to a personal computer (PC) and less than ten years to receive Internet access.  These results are all the more amazing in light of the fact that the former technologies were heavily subsidized by government while PC and Internet technologies have not been.

Moreover, even a cursory review of the marketplace for personal computers and Internet services reveals the remarkable choices and bargains consumers have available to them. Average PC prices have fallen below $1,000, but more importantly, entry-level systems can be found for well under $400.  Many PC systems are now offered to consumers virtually free-of-charge with promotional discounts and mail-in rebates. Likewise, Internet access is typically priced very low at "all-you-can-eat" prices, such as $9.99 to $19.99 per month. In many cases, free Internet access and e-mail services can be found on the Web. And while high-speed Net access is not yet ubiquitous, new connections to the home are appearing every day.

The bottom line is: things are getting better all the time. The real question policy makers should be debating is not how to ensure Americans have a PC and Internet access, it's what they expect Americans to do with these technologies once they have them. Federal technology entitlements and "universal service" programs, however, are unnecessary in an environment characterized by such an amazing myriad of proliferating choices.

Finally, regarding the so-called "E-Rate" or "Gore Tax" program, which imposes hidden taxes on phone bills to help fund school wiring efforts, the optimal solution would be to eliminate federal involvement altogether and allow the states to implement the Bush plan on their own. While the jury is still out regarding the sensibility of increased reliance on technology in the classroom, those educational institutions desiring funds for communications and computing services should petition their state or local leaders for such funding the same way they would for any other educational tool or technology. There is nothing unique about communications or computing technologies that justifies a federal entitlement program while other tools of learning are paid for through state and local budgets.

Adam Thierer is director of telecommunications studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

Reprinted with permission of the Cato Institute www.cato.org, copyright 2004.

Don't Kill a Relationship by not returning a Call

You have the time and it's a simple courtesy

By Hal Becker

When the editor of this newsletter asked me to do an article on the importance of returning phone calls I said “Now that’s an article I can’t wait to write!”  This has always been a stickler with me.  It drives me nuts that people do not have the common courtesy to return calls anymore. As each year passes it gets worse and worse.

When I complain to everybody I know on this subject, the response I get is “That I am real busy and I just didn’t have the time.”  I even get that answer from Brad who is one of my best friends after he ignores my call.

A motivational speaker says it best. “Isn’t it amazing on how much stuff we get done the day before vacation”.  We all do the things we want to do and put off the things we do not want to do.  Bottom line is this...it is simply rude not to return a call.  It is not complicated and easy, and there really is no excuse.

I have found that the higher up you go in a corporation, the easier it is to get a return call. Middle managers are notorious for not returning calls. It must be their first taste of power. In fact the nicer the people, the easier it is to get a return call. I guess this comes from an old word that is not used much today called empathy. Along with that I feel if you treat people with respect and they will treat you the same.

I have timed it. Along with dialing, saying your name and even leaving a brief message on a person’s voice mail takes less than 45 seconds. I find that most people have that amount of time available. In fact with 93 million cell phones in use today there is even more time available to return those calls.

It has gotten so bad that my friend Bob Shook, who is one of America’s leading business authors wrote a book on this subject with a humorous twist giving readers at least 150 ways to get people to return their calls. In case you already guessed, his book is titled “I’ll Get Back to You.”

What is amazing to me is that more people return emails and not phone calls.  I don’t know about anyone else but I type about 3 words per hour and can talk about 3,000 words per minute.  It is still much faster to talk than type for most people.  If you are afraid of confrontation, then simply ask for that person’s voice mail and leave a straightforward response.

Here’s a few simple reasons and tips on how and why you should return your phone calls.

·       It is just the right thing to do.  If you think I am wrong go ask your mother.

·       Even if you are like me and you get 40 plus calls per day, return them quickly and you find it is not a big deal, just part of a normal business day.

·       Trust me you have no idea what is down the road or in your future, and you will be glad that you returned the call to the person who is now your new boss or even a new client.

·       Don’t you hate is when your calls go unreturned?  Well guess what Sparky, so does everyone else!

·       Relationships are everywhere.  Even if you are telling a salesperson no to their service or product, they are a person like you and me and are trying to do their job.  One day this person could become your future daughter in law!  Would it kill you to spend an extra minute with each person you might encounter?  It’s not that tough to be nice to people.

·       Small towns still do business like the way it was. “People deal with People”.  They are considerate and can also slow down a bit to realize that life is more than a constant rush hour.

To sum it up it all comes down to an attitude and doing the right things in life whereby you treat your fellow man with dignity and respect.  I am not preaching or judging but maybe being just a little bit Southern in my philosophy and opinions!

Reprinted with permission of the Hal Becker www.halbecker.com, copyright 2004.

As an internationally known expert on sales and customer service, a best-selling author, and a dynamic and entertaining speaker, Hal Becker makes more than 120 presentations a year to organizations that include IBM, Disney, Blue Cross, AT&T, Nordstrom, New York Life, American Greetings, Continental Airlines, U.S. Post Office and hundreds of other companies and associations.

Plain English Continued

Back by popular demand, this is a continuation of technical to business translation from our previous newsletters.  The following excerpt came from a technology firm web site.  Our translation follows.

Technical jargon:

Most large firms have completed the majority of their core enterprise solutions implementations, and have entered a new phase—while simultaneously standardizing and simplifying existing investments, they are also re-embracing customized applications to fill in functionality gaps not met by packaged software vendors, or to achieve differentiation from their competitors.  This two-pronged approach, which seeks the ideal of either extreme standardization for most routine applications or extreme customization for a few carefully selected ones, enables firms to both wring all possible efficiencies out of existing investments while also ensuring that firms meet the functionality requirements necessary to perform business and retain some of the unique processes and information necessary for competitive advantage.

Business translation:

Many large companies have invested enormous amounts of money into full-scale integrated systems from large software vendors aligned with large consulting firms.  Now, they have found out they do not fit and need much further customization.

Quotes Worth Noting

“Today, every anchor behind a news desk, every reporter on deadline KNOWS that the moment they release their report to the public, thousands of bloggers will put on their ‘fact-checking’ hats and get to work and that’s good for all Americans – liberal and conservative alike.” -- Mike Krempasky

“You should have education enough so that you won’t have to look up to people; and then more education so that you will be wise enough not to look down on people.” -- M.L. Boren