why not?

November 4, 2015

I think some theses done in the Philippines can have a more concrete impact on society in general and specifically identified communities in particular. Sure there are some that consider this but, in my mind, not nearly enough. I came from a college (or as we refer to it in Australia, division) where most works were on the shelf gathering dust. We tended to focus on the novelty factor (sure there needs to be a genuine contribution to the field) but it is often at the expense of a direct impact. Sure, part of it is changing the mindsets of students but, more importantly, it is having panelists and advisers think differently.

Maybe it is because most have a software component (sure sometimes it is developed primarily to drive the hardware but arguably it may have broader applications.) Funny that we teach reuse but we rarely build on past projects (maybe it is for the same reason that people start a new foundation instead of contributing to an existing one – in my mind it partly boils down to an issue of control and ownership). I espouse the use of open-source but even I note the realities of forking. Conceptualising the project we often concentrate on the ‘What’ and the ‘How’; often times forgetting the more important question: ‘Why’.

Some people are familiar with SaaS (Software as a Service) – emphasis on the last word. What I am proposing is an explicit broadening of this paradigm: SaaSE ( Software as a Service for Empowerment). According to current definitions, it is not exactly an extension but a reappropriation if you will. Outright intention is the difference. Sure, I am aware of the caveats: the road to hell and all; but this should not be a reason not to even try.

There is no reason that this should be limited to colleges of computing (although the applications are much more obvious). Fields such as engineering or science are also important but other areas such as economics and psychology are also useful. This should not be only limited to my explicit examples but as long as they can utilised for the common good like government, small business and NGOs to name a few, it is worth looking at.

This is by no means refined but some thought was put into it. They can’t be all gems and some of them may be utter rubbish – I do not often agree with Bill Gates but I’m also of the mind that success is a poor teacher. I think a blog is a suitable medium to share an opinion, to get a conversation started, to improve ideas and to garner feedback – hell, it may even lead others to better or different notions. The point is to eventually arrive at something that can be practically implemented.


One Response to “why not?”

  1. jtan Says:

    Hi Lindsley,

    It’s definitely a good idea because the waste is otherwise substantial, and unfortunately that seems to be completely taken for granted. Yes, it’s the novelty factor, but that itself, I think, is a result of a particular focus on the quick buck, so to speak. Research groups look for the “wow” factor in their publications in order to attract more funding, and the funding cycle here in Australia is so short! I can imagine that commercial organisations have similar ideals. Ironically, as you point out, there would be more interest back in the Philippines for research outcomes, even prototypes, that provide practical benefits, and so we have lots of thesis projects with clients or a target organisation. Not that they are necessarily more farsighted, but they are perhaps less demanding and more willing to help students halfway. Or, could it also be that research supervisors here are less likely to approach small-to-medium organisations for such collaborations? Hmm… Having supervised several minor theses at least, I can’t say it ever occurred to me, and senior academics around me all seemed to go for big, multinational organisations through whom their research might be commercialised, rather than organisations who are the end-users themselves.

    You’re onto something, I think, if I understand you correctly.


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