CNET : Internet : Regional Dispatches
Real world Net cynicism in a wired world
By Jay Chong
November 29, 1999

Recently my better half and I gave a talk to a group of 18- and 19-year-olds on why the Internet is important and how it is going to impact their lives.

Getting the group together was a tough task in itself. The organizer had to battle with the teenagers' schedule which seemed packed beyond belief. At the rate they were going, I could have baked a dozen cheesecakes several times over.

When the day arrived, brimming with enthusiasm, we dispensed nuggets of gold on the wonders of the Internet and how we, who have had the surfing experience, could see the potential that lay ahead of these youngsters. We wanted them to see it, too. We wanted to show them and give them a shortcut in life.

After almost an hour of expounding the possibilities of the Net, we arrived at question time. The audience went silent. Not to be dismissed, we asked the questions instead... What we heard instead was "no time", "too busy with schoolwork", "cybercafe so far", "I can't afford", "I tried to get on but the Internet was so slow", "my friend said don't buy PC because it'll go obsolete".

We stared at these teenagers in disbelief. These were excuses and not acceptable argument for not getting online. At least the group was candid and frank with its answers. But it was alarming how these teens saw IT as something they could live without--at least for now.

Sure, using computers is part of their school lessons. But at a rate of one hour a week in the syllabus, the PC was reduced to an item, something they switched on to complete English comprehension exercises.

Some have been more fortunate. They have explored the Net, chatted in chat rooms, and sent an occasional email. Pretty mindless, they probably think. But if they didn't take charge of their activities online or allow their curiosity to get the better of them on the information superhighway, all that they do on the Net would continue to be mindless anyway.

Dispatch from Malaysia

Here's a nation that has built a first-world infrastructure. But can the country truly lead its people down the Yellow Brick Road to the smart city of tomorrow? Our Dispatch from Malaysia taps into the collective mindshare.

Jay Chong, a mother of two, hopes her children will benefit from the exposure they are getting through the Internet. Her ultimate dream is to retire when her kids are tech-savvy enough to bring back moolah from their forays online.


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