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Do You Have Today?s Bow and Arrows?

I never dreamt this day was coming, when educated people, but without computer related skills would be viewed with the same stigma and perspective as illiterate people are viewed. A time when the most secure job, web designing was unknown by the average worker 7 years ago. A time when the most important skill is ability to learn, and more to the point, being on the cutting edge of the information technology.

One needs to look no far but the local Hewlett Packard, Zilog, MSCS or any public agency, turbulence of organizational restructuring. Check out how many of those whose jobs have been eliminated are in Information Technology Department. Looking beyond the horizons, the national level, check out with Lucent Technologies Inc. John Skalko, their public relation officer was quoted by Paul Hoffmann, VP of Operations and acting Labs manager at ProCert Communications, saying that the recent 10,000 layoffs had ?minimal if any impact? on IT positions.

Just a hundred years ago, what a Mukamba man, Kenya, needed to make a living for himself and his extended family was a bow and arrows. A bow and arrows were the tools used to provide food and security ? protection from both enemies and beasts. A horn of a cow or buffalo was the ultimate information transfer technology or for some African tribes, a Talking Drum.

However, in the 60s things had changed. Western education was the means for providing food and security. My mother emphasized the importance of education by singing for me:
Kethwa ni ivinda ya tene, ila kwai Mwatu wa Ngoma, Nau nikwitia uta na thyaka. Nau yuyu nikwitia kisomo. Ngumbau sya ivinda yiyi vinya wasyo ni kisomo, Nau vinya wakwa wivau. Nau yuyu nikwitia kisomo.

Meaning: If it was long time ago, when there was Mwatu wa Ngoma (a Kamba warrior), father, I would ask you for a bow and arrows. But father now I ask you for an education. An education is the strength of today?s warriors. Father, that is where my strength is.

I remembered my mother?s words as I was registering for computer classes at the New Horizon Computer Learning Center, Boise. This is a place where I must come to either learn about new ?bows and arrows? (new programs) or tighten and sharpen (update) the ones I already have.

This is the part my mother didn?t sing about, but a part I have to sing to my children as Information Technology is todays and their days Warriors? strength. It is what has put America in the economic driver?s seat.

Yet, there is a picture about our Information Technology jungle that is not a headline issue. There is an acute shortage of employees with the necessary skills at all levels of both private and public organizations. Mr. Charles Sullivan, President of New Horizon Computer Learning Center shared with me the fact that there are fewer students in IT college programs than there were ten years ago.

Kamba warriors would cross tribal boundaries with their bows and arrows and bring home cattle, game and sometimes wives. This concept is played very well in the scramble for skilled people. Businesses in need of computer skilled people are reaching to foreign lands ? and those foreign warriors are crossing boundaries.

African traditional dance is known for limited instructions. However, one rule was usually mentioned before the dance started, ?When the drumbeat changes, change your dancing.? Information Technology has changed our dance, and unless we change our dancing, we will be dancing offbeat.

Industry analysts suggest that only less than 10% of national computer training needs are being met at the moment. Could a 10% increase in computer training increase a company?s productivity or make workers position more secure? Who knows! One thing is for sure. Adaptability to the drumbeat of the time does help people and organizations to do their business in more efficient ways. Do you have today?s bow and arrows?

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