Editorial for Sunday — July 27, 2003

• Technological wonders, dangers

Technological wonders, dangers

A computer network outage threw off Hawaiian Airlines’ Saturday morning flights for a time, including several Kaua‘i-bound flights, and mainland flights.

The outage was caused by a failure in the telecommunications system that Hawaiian relies upon for flight scheduling and other networked computerized tasks that link passengers with the company.

The onslaught of south winds and thunderstorms in the area of the Honolulu Airport likely had something to do with the power failure.

While Hawaiian Air was soon back in business, the incident highlights how fragile our networked world is. One glitch in a data line took down an airline, albeit just for a short time.

As many aspects of our life become more and more dependent upon technology there is a price to pay. We are becoming reliant on the network, on the flow of information through digital lines. Our money is mostly digital, sitting in a banking network. More and more we are dependent on the Internet for business and personal communications, as well as cellular telephones for casual, business and emergency calls.

The loss of a computer server, the cutting of a key fiber-optic line, or like in Honolulu, a switch turned off perhaps by bad weather, can throw our lives into a certain level of chaos.

We are just at the threshold of this information age, and better backup systems will need to soon be in place to protect us.

The power of digital media will increase with the power of the networks that are entwining our lives with other islands, states and nations around the globe.

What changes these digital wonders will bring to our Island and our society remains to be seen.

About 150 students have signed up for a public e-school alternative for the coming new school year. These elementary, middle and high school students may be the first generation that will live their whole life in a digital age. How they learn to benefit from the digital educational tools being put in their hands will go a long ways in determining their financial success in adult life.

While it’s too late to turn back now, the goal of our island society should be to use digital communications to better our island, not to change it so much we won’t recognize the society of the future.

The changes coming may be as dramatic as those brought to Kaua‘i by the sugar plantation era beginning in 1835 at Koloa.

Hopefully our Island can adjust and profit from these changes.


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