Technology offers new horizons

Using the social networking site, Facebook, to lobby for a high school in Helena, launching new websites for the Reporter, and raising money to provide aid for the oil disaster in the Gulf are just a few examples of how people in our community are using technology to inform and to facilitate change.

My family and I have benefited greatly from the use of this powerful tool. It helps me work more efficiently and provides easy access to an explosion of information that is available on the World Wide Web.

I’ve also watched in wonder as my son would awake early in the United States to instant message a friend in Australia that he met while we were living in Canada.

Despite the frequent cries of how technology impairs social skills, I’ve only seen it broaden our social circle.

On the other hand, I’m also aware of cyber bullying resulting in suicide, the problem of identity theft and the perilous opportunity technology provides to work constantly anytime and anyplace.

In addition, while most of us have some access to a computer and the Internet, many in our society still do not share in the benefits of this technological revolution. As a result, it can be yet another factor that further divides the haves from the have-nots; but it doesn’t have to be. As with all things, we have a choice regarding how our society uses this new tool. We can use it to connect or detach, empower or exploit.

There are several ways we can use it to empower and better connect with each other.

First, we should use technology to address the needs of the poor and less fortunate, such as the tele-medical services being provided to those who cannot afford to travel to medical centers in some parts of the country.

We must also continue to expand access to the full array of technology services to those in rural and remote areas. Most importantly, we must stress information literacy at home and in our systems of education.

This will make sure that all of us can get the benefits of technology while being able to critically examine the information we encounter and protect ourselves and our information in cyberspace.

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president for student affairs at the University of Montevallo.