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Asians in Cyberspace

 
A recent article in the Korea Herald outlined how Korea was catching up with Japan, the world leader in the development of "humanoid" robots. These robots are being developed mainly for entertainment purposes.

The article is another reminder of how Asians have made their presence felt in high-tech sphere. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of cyberspace.

The recent crisis involving the collision of a Chinese fighter with a U.S. spy plane set off a hackers war between the two nations. In many areas of technology, the Chinese would be at a distinct disadvantage, but so far they appear to be holding their own on the cyber-battlefield.

Maybe it was in the stars that the actor who played the cyber-savior in The Matrix, Keanu Reeves, is of part Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.

The world's other 'Silicon Valley' is located in the South Indian city of Bangalore, where IT engineers who haven't already migrated to the real Silicon Valley, churn out subcontract work internationally.

Success stories like those of Jerry Yang, the founder and "Chief Yahoo" of the world's largest search engine are well-known. But the article "Digital Architects" by Anita Chan in aMagazine (Dec 2001/Jan 2001), shows clearly how many Asians have made it digitally speaking.

On the top of the list was Pradeep Sindhu of Juniper Networks, Inc. -- one of many South Asians listed in the article.

At the piece was written, Sindu's company had a market capitalization of $67.4 billion. The company was also the chief competitor of industry giant Cisco Systems.

While Asians are a force as founders, CEOs and board members, they are even more important as the core engineers of cyberspace, the foot soldiers who make everything go.

There is hardly a company in Silicon Valley that doesn't make copious use of foreign contract labor from Asia for software development. For many companies the H1b visa is a necessity to keep pace with the competition.

Asia: it's big

Asia itself if a growing force in the IT universe. Of course, companies like Sony and Toshiba have always been leaders in the hardware area. South Korea was the leading producer of DRAM chips.

By 2002, the number of Asians from Asia on the Internet is expected to increase to 90 million according to Gartner Group. Goldman Sachs thinks the number will be 202 million by 2003.

That doesn't include those who use the popular "peer-to-peer" system of text messaging on cell phones. Everything from revolutions to election campaigns have been waged on this vast network.

It's now uncommon while travelling in Asia to encounter a seemingly poor street vendor who suddenly interrupts your business transaction to check for I-mode text messages on a cell phone.

Downside

Everything hasn't been rosy though. With so many Asians invested in IT, the recent stock market downturn and especially the walloping of high-tech stocks has hit the community hard.

Many Asians in Asia don't use credit cards, which has been a barrier to increasing e-commerce in the region. Many sites don't give a clue on alternative non-plastic payment methods.

Business-to-business (B2B) investment has been brisk but this is not likely to continue if consumers don't start buying online.

For all the recent hardships though, almost everyone agrees the Internet is here to stay and that it will continue to expand at a rapid rate.

The new trick for dotcoms is to make sites that actually turn profits and just don't depend on one round of high-powered financing after another.

Most are realizing that this depends on attracting an ever-increasing number of people to the Net as regular users. Only after people are comfortable cruising through cyberspace will they open up their purse strings to the cyber-marketplace.