In 1752 the first two volumes of the first encyclopedia created by mankind were printed. As concept it was ambitious and utopian. Ambitious, because Diderot and D’Alambert wanted to reunite the entire utopian concepts since they wished, as stated by Diderot’s daughter,
“to know all arts in order to describe them”
Knowledge, science and technology have been the engines that have driven the marvelous ascent of humankind through amazing scale that is civilization. Everything that surrounds us, product of the creativity of man, is product of the experience accrued through the years and the contribution of previous generations, since the beginnings of history. In this evolution process, it is undeniable that the invention of writing, as a mean of transmitting thought, and printing, as a tool of widespreading scripts, constitute one of the most important milestones in the history of civilization.
To us who were lucky to live in the second half of the 20 th Century, we have had the opportunity to witness one of the most exciting stages of history. Somebody stated, accurately, that in less than hundred-fifty years technology has developed more than in the previous five thousand years. Precisely, one of those developments are aimed to change the life of the people of this planet, and may be the most important of all, the computer. In less than two decades, cybernetics and all its extraordinary applications which encloses, revolutionized our lives. In medicine, in engineering, in business administration, in all industrial fields, commerce, telecommunications, and in all human activities, this technological breakthrough is present and each time will have a leading role in the great adventure of humankind.
Naturally, modern technology has also changed the way of conceiving the development of societies. If in the past, the possession of natural resources was the clue of richness and progress, currently, the possibilities of development are linked to knowledge, in other words to education.
This is demonstrated by examples of countries like Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and even Japan, which do no have neither great mineral deposits, oil, nor abundant farming and animal husbandry have achieved extraordinary accomplishments in the developing pursuit. While nations provided by nature of abundant resources are still fighting poverty and backwardness.
For that reason, education is one of the main objectives of this Government, and is a fundamental concern of the President of the Republic in every phase of his political plan. We are absolutely convinced that the only instrument that will allow us to separate poverty from underdevelopment is education, and the battle against backwardness has to be fought in schools and universities. Those who are not able to have access to science and technology will be condemned in the future to remain at the edge of the universal progress, because every day it is evident that richness is not buried in the ground but in the mind of studious. To prove it, we only have to remember that the most successful companies in the world today are not the ones who exploit natural resources, but those who work with the most valuable and inexhaustible of the resources, the intelligence, as is the case of Microsoft or telecommunications.
This implies, in first place, to revolutionize the educational systems and also, obviously, to extend coverage. The modern student manages great amount of information in every aspect of knowledge, and our duty is prepare him to have access to that information and teach him how to use it, without forgetting the importance of teachers’ education.
Naturally, this will not be possible if we do not provide them will the fundamental tool to achieve it, the computer. For that reason, one of the main objectives of this Government is to obtain that every public school in the country be equipped with computers, because to ignore its use and possibilities is the modern name of illiteracy.
The new version of ENCARTA 99 ENCYCLOPEDIA constitutes a valuable contribution to the education of Colombian citizens, and deserves our entire acknowledgement and most sincere congratulations. Result of the most gigantic effort in which participated more than 6000 people worldwide, with multimedia in action animations, virtual trips, sounds and videos, 360 degree views, links to Web sites, additional references and articles, Encarta 99 now provides the basic knowledge with motion and is not subject to a rigid paper, but to the needs and priorities of those who wish to consult it.
Thank you very much, in name of the President of the Republic and children of Colombia, for such valuable gift, which will be very useful in our purpose of achieving education as the fundamental tool that will allow us to give a big jump to modernity and development.