When was the last time you looked up a fact in the encyclopaedia, cashed a cheque at the bank or sent a letter across the ocean to a friend or relative just to tell them your news? Was it before the year 2000?
The evolution of technology over the last 20 years has totally transformed the way we live our lives – from the way we communicate to the way we shop, pay, do business, conduct research, watch television, learn, work and even socialise. RG Mags speaks to five experts about the impact – good, bad and ugly – this transformation has had on our Island.
Voice of Experience
What Michael Leverock doesn’t know about technology isn’t worth knowing. While at University in the mid-1980s he used the Internet before anyone knew what it was. In the early 1990s, he was instrumental in the deregulation of telecommunications in Bermuda and in 1999 he co-founded CellOne, which was the first company on the island to offer seamless roaming on cellular phones.
“I think technology offers the opportunity for great solutions,” he says. “The world is what it is now because of the evolution of different technology. “There was a time when Bermuda was more at the forefront of deploying advanced telecommunications systems. Bermuda was one of the first countries in the world to roll out a 3G network, and as a result of that, we were able to offer diverse text messaging services and also the beginnings of getting email to the handset.”
Since then things have changed, but he does think “there’s a lot going on still”. “I think it’s a matter of finding the right use cases to apply a lot of the new technology,” he said.
In particular, Mr Leverock would like to see technology being used to reduce duplication and bring about efficiencies that would bring down costs. “Costs of doing business, cost of healthcare. An element of efficiency that aligns better with a small island economy. Prices for everything keep going up, and we have a population that’s shrinking,” he said.
If we’re serious about keeping Bermuda as an international financial centre, we need to find solutions to ensure we stay competitive. The adoption of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning could be a big plus. I think just taking the civil service and having that fully digitised, and automated could create a huge benefit.”
What about the impact to Bermuda’s culture and people? “People are going to have to change and adapt to their environment,” he says. “Technology is going to drive a lot of the economic development and growth. The types of jobs that are going to be available are going to change. The skill sets are going to have to be developed.”
Mr Leverock also thinks the island needs to position itself to take advantage of the opportunities that cryptocurrency could present. In ten years, he believes there will be some type of digital currency being used.
“Somewhere along the way we’re going to figure it out because printing money is an antiquated way of representing value. It’s not the actual bill; it’s the other stuff behind it. When we can figure out putting economic value behind an encrypted, digital element then I think we’ll start to get it more widely accepted.”
People are going to have to change and adapt to their environment,” he says. “Technology is going to drive a lot of the economic development and growth. The types of jobs that are going to be available are going to change. The skill sets are going to have to be developed.
Zonique James was a Primary School teacher for 15 years before she became Experiential Learning Director at the Bermuda Education Network (BEN) in January 2019. She has a Masters in IT Integration. She believes that modern technology provides valuable tools for enhancing the teaching and learning experience, but should be used wisely.
When Ms James first started in the classroom, computers were only used by teachers for typing up notes. Now, she says, communication tools and teaching Apps have “widened the classroom and widened in terms of teachers being able to collaborate across schools.”
One of her favourite resources is a website called Teachers Pay Teachers, which, she says “cuts down planning time for lessons,” and “has ideas from teachers around the world. It’s an Amazon for teachers.”
She also says tools such as Google Expeditions can take children on a virtual tour to places that aren’t easily accessible from Bermuda. “If we’re teaching about the Great Barrier Reef, I can pull it up on my SmartBoard, and we can go on an expedition around the Reef.” Other resources she praises include ClassDojo, which improves communication with parents, TeacherTube, which is a safer version of YouTube, and Kahoot, which provides end of lesson quizzes to gauge how much the students have understood. “While I’m using technology, there still has to be a balance, so it’s not my only go to. It’s just a tool to enhance learning. Good teaching is still very important.” When it comes to social media, Ms James has concerns about its impact, especially on children, as she believes it can hurt their self-esteem. “Over the last five years, part of our curriculum had to be understanding that some photos are photoshopped. That’s when we started the shift to include things such as cyberbullying.”
She also warns “technology can sometimes be used as a babysitting tool. Using technology wisely needs to be the focus of parents and teachers alike to improve learning,” because, “when it comes to writing and speaking I can see that technology has impacted a lot of students in those areas. Students are now writing ‘LOL’ when they have writing assignments. They shorten the words.”
On the plus side, however, she says she enjoys using the BEN Instagram and Facebook pages to celebrate students and parents as well as promote positive messages to the wider community.
Ms James believes virtual reality technology could even further enhance student learning. “It’s extraordinary technology, and teachers are just now starting to deploy it in the classroom. You could learn about an event in history by being right there. I think the possibilities are endless.”
While I’m using technology, there still has to be a balance, so it’s not my only go to. It’s just a tool to enhance learning. Good teaching is still very important.
Voice of Youth
At 17 years old, the dynamic ‘In the Know with Dennis Zuill’ presenter has spent his whole life in the Internet age. He has a laptop, a Smartphone, is dubious about social media but has ideas for new technology that Bermuda should embrace.
Dennis’ show can be seen on Channel 82, but its following is mainly Internet-based. “People don’t really watch TV as much as they used to because now you see it all on your phones and computers,” he says.
As a student in his final year at CedarBridge Academy, he admits that his phone Apps, in particular, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter and WhatsApp, can be a distraction. However, they also impact him “in a positive way when it comes to my homework” because “it’s easier to do research and find answers. Usually, when doing homework, I put my phone far away. I have AirPods so I can still listen to music.”
The ease of communication has positives and negatives, he continues. It’s a positive “when it comes to parents trying to figure out where their children are,” but “when you have SnapChat, it’s easier for the negativity to be seen by everyone else.”
Dennis feels “that the island has taken a turn for the worse,” in terms of social media, “because when something negative is happening people are quick to pull out their phones and send it around.”
From a business perspective, he admits though that social media can help win sponsorships and endorsements because people can see the positives of what you do. “I’m just not a big fan of posting. My Mum posts more than me,” he said.
Despite growing up with technology at his fingertips, Dennis doesn’t consider himself that dependent on it. “I’m a boy. We get in trouble a lot. The first thing my Mum takes is my phone. My phone isn’t a big factor. I like to go out and play football. I’d be fine for a day. I’d struggle for a week.”
After College, Dennis plans to establish his own plumbing business. He likes the idea that customers will be able to immediately swipe their cards for payment once he has finished the job.
Inspired by the story of late rapper Tupac Shakur’s hologram at Coachella, Dennis believes that technology could be a great way for Bermudians to see famous artists ‘perform’ here. He’d also like to see more electric cars: “I feel like we should have a lot more electrical vehicles in Bermuda for our environment.”
When something negative is happening people are quick to pull out their phones and send it around.
DR ALICIA HANCOCK
As a clinical psychologist, Dr Alicia Hancock has been at the raw end of what social media can do to us on a personal level. It “depersonalises human contact and unfortunately what we’re starting to see is people being more inept at being able to communicate as far as things like resolution or any kind of dialogue or basic interaction,” she explains. “That can lead to social anxiety.”
The particular danger is when social media becomes the sole source of communication. “It’s not allowing us to have the full experience of what it’s like to connect with other people. If I’m sending a message to somebody, that has a completely different experience emotionally than if I was to have [a conversation] with a person.”
Dr Hancock also warns that another consequence is misinterpreting what has been written. “That is huge,” she says. “Once misinterpreted in somebody’s mind, assumptions are made. Reactions can follow. We can have an unnecessary spiral of events that could have been avoided. I think the more we use social media as the primary way to communicate, the more sensitive we become because we’re not interacting face-to-face. We can’t read the person’s non-verbal cues to know what is meant by what has been said.”
Bermuda’s size, she continues, means the transmission of incorrect information can be more damaging than in other countries. “Because information is transmitted a lot quicker within a small island, people are familiar with each other; it can become a dangerous platform to hurt people, especially if it’s false information.”
Dr Hancock admits, however, that from a business perspective the advent of Internet-based communication and development of modern technology, in general, has been very helpful.
“It’s definitely beneficial for a lot of entrepreneurs and business people as they try to expand themselves. If you have a good reputation, your business can expand quicker.”
She says the Internet is particularly useful for her work because of the access to research and knowledge, and for her practice, she relies on technology for marketing and scheduling. When it comes to communication, however, she prefers human contact.
“If I’m on the phone with a company and it’s all automated, I myself have become frustrated because at least with human contact there’s a shared knowledge of human vocabulary. Social media is nice to keep in touch with people you wouldn’t keep in touch with, but it’s important to have a balance as a means to stay connected because it’s not the same connection as social contact.”
It’s not allowing us to have the full experience of what it’s like to connect with other people. If I’m sending a message to somebody, that has a completely different experience emotionally than if I was to have [a conversation] with a person.
SUPERINTENDENT SEAN FIELD-LAMENT
When Superintendent Sean Field-Lament thinks back to the technology available to him 20 years ago, he laughs at the memory of “hunting and pecking a telex machine in the old Somerset Police Station to send the daily report into the COMOPS centre. Mistakes meant redoing the whole message.”
In total, he has been with the Bermuda Police Service for 34 years, and things have come a long way since then.
“The advent of paperless files and tickets are becoming reality,” he says. “The use of mega data has facilitated deeper analysis and the evolution of ‘hot spot’ policing – facilitating intelligence data-driven policing deployments and responses.” He adds that CCTV technology, in particular, has proved an “invaluable tool in the detection and prevention of crime.”
Mr Field-Lament has concerns about the impact instant communication can have, in particular when it comes to the distribution of pictures and videos and warns about the downsides of social media. “Cyberbullying is an alarming development,” he says. “While social media made making friends easier, it also made it easier for predators to find victims. The anonymity that social networks provide can be used by the perpetrators to gain people’s trust and then terrorise them in front of their peers.”
Instant messaging in the world of policing “has revolutionised the speed of communication both for the good guys and the bad. These often encrypted methods of communication permit criminals to plan, organise and implement criminal endeavours more efficiently and effectively.
“Conversely, the ability for Police Services to have constant meaningful dialogue with the community has been enhanced,” and the “volume and exchange of information has greatly assisted all involved, and in most cases, has advanced public safety issues and highlighted concerns to be addressed.
“A growing problem however, is the distribution of videos and pictures of criminals or crimes in action on social media. Whilst the intent may be good; it may actually make catching the criminals with evidence harder. It also serves as feedback to the criminals on what not to do.”
There are still great opportunities for technology to continue to advance for the good, he says. “User interface advances to streamline processes – the development of a chip and pin for use in areas such as traffic,” and “vehicle enforcement and the ability to use e-911 to instantly find people calling for emergency help”, are good examples.
He also recommends “the abolishment of desktops and the movement to user-friendly interfaces that facilitate police officers being out on the street interacting with the public in high visibility, well-informed patrols.”
Cyberbullying is an alarming development,” he says. “While social media made making friends easier, it also made it easier for predators to find victims.