Flat World Initiative

The world is flat. The playing field is level. What's happening in IEEE Region 3? What are you doing about it?


An IEEE Region 3 Initiative for 2006-8

Butch Shadwell, Chair
Robert S. (Bob) Duggan, Jr., Associate

The Big Earth

IEEE Region 3 is looking for your ideas and your help ... and your action!

Globalization is not a new phenomenon: Trade and cultural exchange between separated societies have an extended history, as evidenced by the Silk Road and the later exploration and development of distant countries through colonialization.

During the past year, however, a best selling book has been Thomas L. Friedman's "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century" [Farrar, Straus, & Giroux - 496 pages].   In it he describes how the flattening of the earth happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century -- thanks mainly to the internet, what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals, and how governments and societies can -- and must -- adapt.   Friedman in the latest re-release of his book describes how Georgia Tech here in Region 3 is doing an outstanding job in turning out the "right stuff" to meet the challenges of the Flat World.

MIT by the end of this year will have the contents of all its 1800 courses available online, with some 1.5 million learners from Iraq to Antarctica participating.  Hundreds of other universities around the world are following their lead.  The World is fast becoming Flat!

A recent 6-minute .wmv clip by DidYouKnow dramatically describes how fast innovation, information, data transfer rates, and computation capability are all increasing in the Flat World of today.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology. IEEE is a global, transnational organization of some 375,000 engineers with 10 geographic regions and over 320 sections in over 160 countries. We also have over 1400 student branches in universities in 80 countries.

As a transnational organization, the IEEE is uniquely positioned to recognize the flat world reality, to face the electronic technology that has helped bring it about, and to facilitate transnational activity which can embrace the new reality and help achieve a more peaceful and prosperous world for our children.

Apart from IEEE, an important fact is noted: In 1955 there were 35,000 international students in the USA. In 2005, however, there were some 565,000 international students and scholars from 190 nations studying in the USA! The top five countries were India (80,466), China (62,523), South Korea (53,358), Japan (42,215), Canada (28,140), and Taiwan (25,914). Every 10 years some 1,000,000 international students are graduated here. These are the future political, economic, social, and religious leaders of their countries.

Region 3
IEEE Region 3 includes mainly the southeastern part of the United States plus Jamaica. Here in Region 3 we have recognized the flattening of the world. In fact, one sees related activity everywhere. Some things are good, some things are not so good. Regardless, the flattening of the world is a reality, and we must consider how we here in the southeastern USA can best adapt and act in order to achieve optimum strategic results for our members, our region, our Institute, and indeed our world.

Here are a few things we already see taking place in our region ...

  • Over 82,000 international students were studying in colleges and universities here in IEEE Region 3 in 2004-5.   In Atlanta alone over 8100 foreign students from over 140 countries are enrolled in the 25 metro area colleges and universities. (By the way, there were only 2500 foreign students back in 1978). It is estimated that the 12,000 international students in the state of Georgia alone contributed over $250,000,000 to the state economy in 2005!
  • Georgia Tech in Atlanta is developing joint degree programs and campuses overseas, including China, Singapore, France, Ireland, and India.
  • Kennesaw State University near Atlanta now has an active China Research Center.
  • The University of Georgia is planning majors in Chinese language and literature. In fact, China is now the state of Georgia's largest trading partner!

  • Our cable TV line ups often include channels in Spanish and other languages.  The BBC is frequently a cable TV choice.  Satellite programming is available from France, Germany, Japan, China, and Arab countries.
  • Surprisingly, medical and dental tourism are becoming popular in countries such as Costa Rica, Hungary, India, Lithuania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, and Thailand.
  • People of all faiths around the world are now worshiping on the internet. This fascinating article from the Washington Post describes it in detail.
  • We frequently hear complaints of off-shoring of jobs.  Help desks often connect us to India, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean, or Kenya.  Our hospital EKGs or xrays may be evaluated overnight in Australia or Israel. 
  • Many US companies are opening branches in other countries ... but at the same time we see Nissan, Mercedes, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, and various Asian and European electronics companies opening facilities in the southeast. A Chinese electronics components company is locating south of Atlanta.
  • The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) program was started in Switzerland and is now in 124 countries. More than 1,013 schools in North America now offer one or more of IBO's global academic programs. Kids are global citizens today, and they must learn to act that way. IB World Schools are of all types: public, private, magnet, charter, international, parochial, and secular, and serve a broad and diverse range of students. IB programs foster understanding among young people around the world, enabling future generations to live more peacefully and productively than before. Inclusion of IB programs is a key criterion in the selection of the top high schools in America.

    Here are some other observations ...

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world.  Constantly, new world destinations are being added.   Non-stop flights currently fly to China, Japan, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Israel, Dubai, most European countries, and Russia. Mumbai, India was added 1 Nov 2008. Delta, based in Atlanta, has now merged with North West Air, and thus serves some 375 cities in 53 countries.
  • In fact, international passenger traffic is booming at Atlanta.   In 2005 the number of foreigners flying into Hartsfield Airport increased a whopping 54% over 2004 -- more passengers than any other American city.   Foreign arrivals in Atlanta jumped from about 366,000 in 2004 to 564,000 in 2005!
  • The huge Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is actively involved with countries around the world in research, detection, identification, control, and prevention of infectious diseases. Located adjacent to Emory University in Atlanta, CDC hosts numerous scientists from all countries -- a major international focal point in our region.
  • The Georgia Council for International Visitors (GCIV) hosts hundreds of foreign officials and visitors throughout the year, and volunteers have many opportunities to be involved.
  • Friendship Force International (FFI), a people-to-people exchange program, is headquartered in Atlanta. Hundreds of international exchanges have taken place since its founding in 1977.
  • Atlanta Ministry with International Students (AMIS) was founded in Atlanta in 1978 and fosters an "Amigo" program to encourage friendship with international students -- the future leaders of many countries of the world.
  • Christmas International House (CIH) is also headquartered in Atlanta, focusing on hosting foreign students during the Christmas holidays when most US students vacate campus dorms.
  • The Cable News Network (CNN) is headquartered in Atlanta, but its news programming is carried by satellite around the world. Tours at CNN are always of interest for foreign visitors.
  • Some pertinent articles ...

  • Norman R. Augustine et al., "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: ...", National Academy of Engineering, 20 October 2005.

  • Alan S. Brown, "The Gathering Storm", The BENT of Tau Beta Pi, Fall 2006, pp. 27-30, 44.

  • Offshore Outsourcing Finds Fans... WSJ (requires subscription).

  • Robert Reich to IT: Don't Fear Globalization eWeek, 18 Sep 2006.

  • James M. Vinoski, "Offshoring Reality and Responsibilities", The BENT of Tau Beta Pi, Fall 2006, pp. 31-32.

  • Thos. L. Friedman, "Anyone, Anything, Anywhere", New York Times, 22 Sep 2006.

  • Thos. L. Friedman, "Big Ideas and No Boundaries", New York Times, 6 Oct 2006.

  • George Leopold, "Offshoring: Risk to U.S. Innovation?", EE Times, 27 Nov 2006, pp. 1,16.

  • Fran Smith, "Global Superpower", Edutopia, Nov/Dec 2006, pp. 25-27.

  • Claudia Wallis & Sonja Stepjoe, "How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century", Time, 18 Dec 2006, pp. 50-56.

  • Norman R. Augustine et al., "Prospering in the Global Economy", National Academy of Engineering, 15 February 2007.

  • Kevin Sullivan, "Linking Ancient and Modern, A Worldwide Web of Worship", Washington Post, 14 March 2007, p. A01.

  • William Greider, "The Establishment Rethinks Globalism", The Nation, 30 April 2007.

  • "Thos. Friedman Challenges Graduates to Shape World with Creativity, Innovation", Renssalear News, 19 May 2007.

  • Thos. L. Friedman, "U.S. Has Intellectual Race to Win...", Atlanta Journal, 27 May 2007, p. B7.

  • Norman R. Augustine, "Is America Falling Off the Flat Earth?", National Academies Press, 2007.

  • Robert W. Lucky, "U.S. Engineers and the Flat Earth",IEEE Spectrum, Mar 2008.

  • Opportunities for You
    Here are some possible activities that you and/or your IEEE entity can do to foster better interchange between the internationals in our midst and our American IEEE members.

    Invite international EEs to your section, chapter, or student branch meetings. Introduce them to your associates. Show them what IEEE means to you and what IEEE can mean to them. Perhaps you may be instrumental in starting an IEEE section in their homeland when they return home after graduation.

    Contact one of the above organizations such as GCIV, FFI, AMIS, or CIH. They will be delighted to work with you.

    Get involved with Engineers without Borders, a non-profit humanitarian organization established to improve the quality of life in developing countries worldwide.

    Invite foreign EEs to your home. Many foreign students spend their entire college career in the USA without ever visiting in an American home or getting to know an American family personally. Imagine how different the world would be if some of the hostile world leaders had been exposed to friendly Americans here or abroad during their youth! These foreign students in our midst are future world leaders -- and the world is getting flatter all the time. Isn't it wiser to help our country (and IEEE) make friends than to alienate them?

    Organize an exchange with another IEEE entity.  As an example, FFI organized an exchange between ham operators in Georgia and hams in Moscow a few years ago.

    I'm sure you may have more ideas for enhancing transnational relations in IEEE Region 3.  I invite you to share them.  We hope that Region 3 may prove to be a model for other IEEE regions in furthering transnational relations within the IEEE -- and helping to build a better world for our kids. 

    I invite you to get involved!  Send your thoughts, comments, and suggestions to Eric S. Ackerman, Ph.D. or Butch Shadwell.  We look forward to hearing from you! .  


    Page last updated 2 Nov 2008.