Computers and Saipan’s lone wolves

Posted on Jan 04 2001

Yesterday, on this hallowed page, I glanced at America’s dot-com meltdown. Meanwhile, a lot of us in the Commonwealth have to admit though maybe the Internet stocks were as frothy and poisonous as a rabid American divorcee, the Internet itself is the greatest invention since blue jeans.

Fact is, though most of us out here aren’t programmers or electrical engineers, the computer age makes the CNMI a much better place to live and do business. No news this, of course, to Tribune readers, as the Saipan Tribune is the first major Micronesian newspaper to have a full blown web presence. Neat, huh?

The more you grapple with the Internet beast, the more you realize that the learning curve isn’t always an easy slide. My pals and I sort of help each other along as we can, aided by copious amounts of patience and help from the folks at Saipan Datacom, and words of wisdom from the guys at Megabyte computers. Somehow, we all manage to muddle through, though the line between merely enduring and happily prevailing is a fuzzy one, and a moving target at that.

So, I’m knee deep in cyber-gibberish writing a new web site for myself, some of my cronies are same-same for themselves, and Saipan’s largely silent web based business action is in the first, or maybe second, stage of quietly becoming established.

I know a few guys who are actually exporting products to the U.S. via their commercial sites. And there are plenty of us who are either marketing services (not a recipe for easy success, I assure you) or otherwise using the wired world to reach out to the great beyond from Saipan.

In fact, we’re so used to using the cyber-world to transact business, that I think we’re far ahead of a lot of folks in the states. This is for reasons perhaps more psychological than technical. A lot of us out here aren’t like America’s urbanized sheeple, who constantly need to huddle together due to some instinctual imperative. Uncle Sam’s citified sissy citizens might crave human contact at all hours of the day, but a lot of us out here prefer semi-isolation and the peace and quiet that comes from living on the periphery.

Which means that all the futuristic drivel about “tele-commuting” in the United States is just that: drivel. Yeah, the technology now exists to make is viable for a large segment of the workforce. And, yeah again, I’m sure more and more folks are doing it. But I don’t think it will ever be common over there, since most Americans lack the independence of mind to feel comfortable without tangible tethers to the rest of the human herd.

So let them endure their hour-long commutes on the highways every day. Let them huddle together in conference rooms, scurry like rats over each other as they scramble around for lunch hour, and then complain about it all in their support groups.

As for the few lone wolves, we’re happy to howl at the tropical moon from our isolated perches, where we can contact the world on our terms, and not the other way around. And on this note, we can say that the CNMI has actually benefitted more than the United States has from the cyber-revolution. I don’t know exactly who to thank for that…but I sure am thankful.

Ed Stephens, Jr. is an economist and columnist for the Saipan Tribune.

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