Unwire Oregon Technology Summit

Edward J. Ray, President
Oregon State University
May 1, 2007, 10:30am
Unwire Oregon Technology Summit
La Sells Stewart Center, Austin Auditorium

 

Welcome to Oregon State University and this important summit.

Let me start by thanking Rob Bole and One Economy for co-sponsoring this event with OSU.

Special thanks are also due Rey Ramsey, CEO of One Economy, both for his leadership of this important organization, and for the fact that One Economy selected OSU for this event, the first of its type they have sponsored in the nation.

Curt Pederson, OSU’s Vice Provost for Information Services, also deserves recognition for his help with this conference, and indeed for all the contributions he makes here and around the state.

There is a reason this university is a technological leader in fields like open source software, and Curt is behind a lot of what we are accomplishing.

Recognition is also due Scott Reed, head of the OSU Extension and Jon Dolan, Associate Director of Network Services, who helped organize this summit.

*   *   *

Not a lot of people know – or would necessarily believe, I suppose – that at one point in my career I was the first CIO at Ohio State. I was told that CIO stood for Career Interrupting Opportunity

This was back in the early 1990s.

Under orders to consolidate academic computing and administrative computing from the president of the university, the vice presidents decided after a year of meeting twice a month that the university needed a CIO but they did not trust anyone of their group to manage the consolidated enterprise fairly.

So they told the president to appoint me, figuring that I would be fair and do the least amount of harm to their separate interests.

It was a great learning experience for me.  I was smart enough to talk with every information technology person on campus and to know that the central staff and the distributed staff had to get past the us and them mentality and work together. I found the best people I could to help me put a plan together and hired someone who actually knew what to do next. I guess it worked out, the first three new leaders I hired are now the CIOs at UCLA, USC and Ohio State.

This experience gave me a deeper understanding of how powerful information technology could be in transforming the way we communicated within the academy and throughout society. Young people today have no idea what the term “telephone tag” means.

That experience and my background as an economist who studied international trade, development, and finance alerted me to the real possibility that the information technology divide could widen the gap between the have and have nots within our nation and among nations around the world.

And where some institutions would have access, and others would not.

And to a significant extent, this is what happened.

As One Economy notes, while most sectors of our society are now reaping the benefits of technology, many low-income people and communities have not enjoyed the access, convenience and efficiency the digital age provides the more fortunate among us.

One of the wonderful things about One Economy, today’s sponsor, is that it is not simply making social commentary on this divide but systematically undoing this pattern.

One Economy is making the power of wireless technology, and the access to information it supplies, available to many more of our citizens.

This is critical to our democracy, and it is critical to engaging all our citizens in the opportunities offered in America.

Making wireless information technology available to low-income communities will help secure economic prosperity and social well being for these communities, and for Oregon and the nation.

We face critical challenges globally, and we need everyone’s participation and everyone’s talents.

This is one reason why One Economy’s Digital Connectors program is so noteworthy.

By identifying talented young people, immersing them in technology training, and helping them build their leadership and workplace skills, they are leveraging their programs profoundly.

It’s a great model for all of us.

This summit provides a means to accelerate this process in Oregon, a goal that is important to all of us.

I’d like to make one other point, and it has to do with OSU’s role.

One Economy describes their mission as “maximizing the potential of technology to help low-income people improve their lives and enter the economic mainstream.”

As Oregon’s land grant university, OSU recognizes this as part of our mission – and our responsibility – as well.

It is one reason why we were created.

It explains why when President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law in 1862 establishing the land grant system, he called us “the people’s colleges.”

What we are coming to understand more and more – and OSU is a national leader in this among all American universities – is that information technology can be a remarkably powerful tool, on a worldwide basis, for helping people improve their lives.

This explains why our faculty and students have built the OSU open source lab into the largest academic open source program in the nation.

On average, 4 million pieces of open source software are downloaded from the Open Source Lab every day, so this is a very substantial operation

The opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives through the dissemination of new information technology is a 21st century adaptation of the principle that land grant universities are created to make a positive difference in the lives of those they serve and it is why we are involved with One Economy, and why you are here today.

And why we are one of the two academic institutions in the country formally involved in the One Laptop Per Child project, which will deliver 100 million laptops at a cost of about $100 each to impoverished children in eight countries next year.

Incidentally, the other university working on this project with us is MIT.

It is the reason we are partnering with the Mayo Clinic and others on open source health information systems.

And why we have developed – and use here – numerous open source software tools that save us, and the other educational and governmental institutions that use them, millions of dollars in technology costs.

These include tools like “Maintain” a free open source network management program developed at Oregon State University and used by institutions nationwide.  This tool has the capabilities of its proprietary counterparts.

It also has the capacity to grow and expand in new ways with minimal effort and cost, through the shared efforts of users on an international basis.

In the same way, One Economy is now moving internationally, bringing the multiple benefits of wireless technology to people around the globe.

This is essential work.  It is very exciting.

And it has an enormous potential to make really significant differences in people’s lives.

So, you are engaged in a very meaningful process for Oregon, and really for the world.  I hope your time today is rewarding, and I wish the best in your work.