Software ‘can solve world’s problems’

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Monday, July 23, 2012


WITH seven billion people in the world riddled with problems like climate change, cancer, transport deadlocks and financial crises, a computer science professor believes computer software can be developed to solve the world’s problems.

Srini Devadas, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in a lecture entitled “Programming the Future,” said that if the huge amount of data available in the world is processed efficiently to discover patterns or hidden meanings, much progress can be done in many different fields, such as healthcare, finance and energy.

Devadas was flown in from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts to the Philippines to participate in the MIT Lecture Series conducted by Accenture, which is part of the company’s collaboration with the MIT Professional Education.

The collaboration, called the Accenture Technology Academy, is a career development program of the company that earns for its employees four types of certifications to further the technical development of their IT workers.

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This month, the company is also dedicating celebrations for technology and made Devadas’ lecture available for some 200 IT professionals and students yesterday.
Computing paradigms

Devadas’ talk focused on three computing paradigms considered central to the progress in computers, software and hardware–programming for everyone, big data and crowds to clouds.

A shortened part of his talk was presented to reporters and he showed simple applications that could be useful to everyone, such as a program that replies to a text message sender that the person is driving.

Devadas said that most enterprises today generate more data than they can process and that the amount of data grows 50 percent yearly.

“It’s hard to keep up with all this data. Think of it as a fire hose and try to drink water from it. It can’t be done,” he said.

“The best approach to tackling big data is to combine the strengths of both human and machine,” he added.

He cited as examples the projects by Rob Miller using real-time crowd systems that are low-cost but tackle real problems. VizWiz lets blind people ask visual questions by letting a user take a picture of an item, ask a question and get an answer in less than a minute. Adrenaline, on the other hand, lets the device user take a 10-second video and get the crowd to pick the best still picture from it in less than 10 seconds.

Devadas said that universities and the industry should go hand in hand in inspiring programmers to come up with software that helps solve the world’s problems.

Darwin Soriano, Accenture Cebu senior executive lead for technology, said the Accenture Technology Academy has some 2,500 employees in the Philippines enrolled in the program while 400 have already been certified.

Certifications for application developer, application designer, application tester and test designer. Those enrolled in the program render 240 hours of online and classroom training, test their knowledge with project experience and pass two certification exams that have been developed by MIT-PE and Accenture.

Investing in growth

Soriano said the program was the company’s way of investing in the growth of their employees.

The program is voluntary and offered at no cost to the employees. It is also made available to employees who have been in the company even for a few years.

Winston Cruz, Accenture’s capability technology lead, said the certification benefits
them because it assures their programs are validated by a trusted authority such as MIT. He added that employees who earn the certification will be recognized as a high performer.

He admitted it makes them attractive to other companies as well, but said that Accenture does its best to let their employees know that they will continue to grow and that more trainings will be made available to them at different stages in their career if they stay with the company.

Soriano said most of the Cebuano employees have embraced the program and assured they are excited about participating. Though he could not say how many among those certified are from Cebu, he said that it is a substantial number.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 24, 2012.

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