The Black Digerati

Contrary to popular belief, African Americans are masters and creators of the Information Age. Major players in the field tell us what the future holds. .

CEO of ANS Communications. “Everything from the cost of goods and services to the amount of time it takes to get projects done will be affected by our newfound connectivity.”

He is not a soothsayer, rather he’s an astute businessman whose company counts one-third of the top 100 companies in America among its customers. If you’re one of the millions who subscribe to America Online, there’s a good chance Bond has helped you log on. The Purchase, New York-based company, which was recently acquired by World Com, built and operates 40% of the AOL dial-up access network. And with revenues of $190 million and counting, Bond is worth listening to.

“Businesses must understand how new technologies can change the value proposition of a business and impact both costs and customers,” says Bond. For instance, Amazon Books (an online bookseller) is now a major challenger to Barnes & Noble because they understood how the Internet changed the dynamics of book selling, he adds. Amazon’s business model, which is based on the Internet, allows them to increase market share with no physical stores and no inventory.

The key, says Bond, is to figure out how new technologies will change existing business structures and make them work to your advantage. In some cases, such as Amazon, the middle man–or physical location–can be bypassed. In others, due to the efficiency of communications capabilities, companies will begin to seek third-party solutions for tasks that were traditionally handled in-house–a kind of electronic outsourcing. Says Bond: “Connectivity is causing a breakdown of traditional business structures that previously left African Americans out in the cold.” .

Robert Mayberry, Ph.D. Research & Development Manager Mass Storage Technology Group Hewlett-Packard

In the ’70s, the futuristic family life of The Jetsons seemed light years away from our everyday reality. Today, the research of Robert Mayberry and others like him has brought us to the brink of the digital domicile. Advances in artificial intelligence are paving the way for smart computers (also known as expert systems) like The Jetsons to become commonplace.

Expert systems are computers that simulate actual thinking and decision-making by flowing through a series of set parameters. As research & development manager for the Mass Storage Group of Hewlett-Packard in Santa Clara, California, Mayberry develops the hardware and software to support these systems. Not only for the household of the future, his pioneering work was also used in the Hubble Space Telescope mission.

Mayberry, 43, believes expert systems will have a wide-ranging impact on the world of information technology and the way businesses will operate in the future. “For example, expert system technology can look at the buying patterns of
your customers, indicate which product is selling and allow you to tell your supplier exactly which one to ship,” says the scientist, who foresees a major paradigm shift as computers begin to perform the major tasks of data retrieval and analysis. This will allow end users to become knowledge engineers, working with their computers in much the same way George Jetson related to his supercomputer, “RUDI.”

He

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