With the powerful push by the Government to embrace technology, people will buy PCs regardless. And they have no justification for it apart from keeping up with the Jones next door. "Oh, I must have one. But I'll figure out why later on."
I am not saying you should not buy yourself a computer. In fact, you can easily get a computer on the Net today. Last week, someone pointed out a local Web site on which a clone company had appointed dealers (one person in each town) for the whole of Malaysia.
I wonder about that direct marketing PC salesman on the Net. I stare at all the dealers' names and wonder if they are tech savvy and can fix my PC when it crashes.
That is where the problems lie. Where is help when you need it? Reliable service is still the single most important persuasive factor and many people forget that when they buy a computer. Pricing tops the list but cheap is not necessarily good.
What is worse is that Malaysians generally hate to pay for service. They want everything free, especially the software applications. Piracy is the norm. After all, who will put down two-thirds of the money they had just placed on a flashy new PC? A clone system here costs about RM2,000 onwards. Windows 98 costs half as much. And that is only the operating system.
When most PCs are fitted with pirated software, problems are bound to crop up. And it is only when they hit a snag that the importance of reliable service begins to dawn to the novice. By then, if these innocent, tech-blur folks burn their fingers, they may lose interest altogether.
The other problem is that the most important group of population who should use technology are not. Global statistics indicate that children, teenagers and senior citizens top the list as tech-savvy individuals. The decision-makers, primarily aged between 30 and 50, would sooner let their secretaries print out their mail and dictate replies. They will not use technology and are probably still laughing their heads off for saving bags of money by not investing in or upgrading their computers in pre-Y2K days. After all, Y2K passed by without so much as a whimper.
These same folks, however, are willing to expound technology and insist that their children use it. Then they complain that the kids are taking a turn at blue avenues and talking to strangers on the Net. What they fail to see is that online dangers are parallel to real-life hazards. The computer is only a machine, and to some extent, the medium. It is certainly not a babysitter. And they wonder why their kids turn out to be misfits in the information economy?
The PC ownership campaign is noble and it does try to address some of the perennial problems. Perhaps the general policy should be: buy a PC and go figure.
After all, everything in life has its price.