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CyberGuru mentors student Internauts

Saturday, May 11, 1996
By Robert W. Fisher

Finding meaning in the media, John Patrick ’67 plugged in his laptop and directed the audience through the possibilities of the world wide web.

“The percentage of the world’s population with access to the World Wide Web rounds to zero,” admits John Patrick, IBM’s vice president for Internet technology.
Even so, the Web offers unprecedented “reach” for businesses to easily interact with customers around the globe, IBM’s top Net “dreamer” told members of the Association for Computing Machinery during a campus visit Tuesday. As a result, businesses crave graduates who understand and can manage this exploding technology, he said.
Patrick, a 1967 Lehigh graduate, compared today’s job market to the time that he graduated, when the major question of employers was “When can you start?” High school students, like his 14-year-old son, already think high-speed access is the norm and are creating sophisticated Web sites “because they don’t know it’s supposed to be hard,” he said. And older Americans are taking to the technology because they have time to explore it. People aged 21 to 55, who run most businesses, “don’t get it,” although they are rapidly accepting the Web and seeking people with the skills to exploit the technology to build business and help people learn and communicate.
Patrick predicted that electronic commerce, which means the transfer of sensitive, everyday documents like medical records and mortgage applications as well as credit card sales, will grow rapidly. “I don’t see security on the Net as a problem. I see it as an opportunity to have a more private and secure world than we have today,” Patrick said. Consider the case of purchasing a bottle of wine from a virtual vineyard: Digital encryption allows the seller to know they will be paid without receiving your credit card number while the credit card company knows you authorized a purchase without knowing what item you bought, he explained.
Growth of on-line business is held back by lack of public trust, not the technology, he said. Instead of trusting net security, people think it is safer “to call someone you’ve never seen before, making $4.95 an hour, and give them your credit card number,” he said.
U.S. firms have “a unique core competency” in cryptography that could be squandered if the government continues to prevent the technology from being exported for fear of enabling terrorism and drug trafficking, Patrick said. “The reality is that commerce is going to be dependent on this. It’s fundamental,” he said. “If we don’t let U.S. companies export it, good cryptography will simply be developed elsewhere.”
Patrick also gave the students his view of the evolution of the Web. “The homepage is dead,” he said. “It’s not enough to just have a billboard in the sky. You need a Web site that creates relationships, builds trust and delivers value” by engaging and informing clients.”
Web educational applications, such as the Virtual Human project, “are opening our eyes to new ways to learn,” Patrick said. The project took the body of an executed criminal who left his body to science and digitized MRI scans of 1,871 millimeter-thick slices of the cadaver. The 70-billion-byte database could replace anatomy textbooks and allow realistic simulations of surgery, he said.
Visit John Patrick on the Web at patrickWeb.com.
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Last Updated : 05/11/96