Honors Program showcases IT's role in making a better world

The lessons of 9/11 were not lost on the 2003 winners

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WASHINGTON -- Before he attended last night's Computerworld Honors program, Patrick Bennett, director of software development at E Entertainment Television Inc., visited this city's many monuments and read the carved-in-stone testaments to the nation's heroes. It became a moving source of inspiration and led to one of the most poignant moments of last night's Computerworld Honors award ceremony.
Winning an award gave Bennett the opportunity to share what he learned from his visit with the crowd of high-tech executives, business leaders and others who gathered in the great hall of the National Building Museum to witness the annual event.
"I see this less as a crowning achievement than as a kind of challenge of what we can do to help people through technology and live up to all those folks who have given their lives that we might innovate and offer technological solutions to help society," said Bennett.
Indeed, a common thread among the winners was a desire to improve the human condition, whether through the use of powerful supercomputers that analyze global warming, the ability to more easily connect with business travelers -- especially in times of emergency -- or to combat terrorism. The lessons of 9/11 came up on several occasions.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. in New York, for example, faced a challenge in complying with the 2001 USA Patriot Act, an antiterrorism law. To do so, it developed an online system for finding people on various government terrorist lists, as well as improving its own fraud detection capabilities.
Peter McCormick, the bank's CIO, said the project provided more than just professional satisfaction. It also provided a heightened sense of purpose. The bank is located about a half-mile from Ground Zero.
"The aspect of 9/11 has really added another dimension to what you can do, even as a banker, even as a technologist in combating the war against terrorism," said McCormick. "So I think it's added another dimension as to why you go to work everyday."
Patrick McGovern, chairman of International Data Group Corp., Computerworld's parent company, said this year's Honors program resulted in 313 new IT case studies presented to more than 140 museums, libraries, research centers and universities around the world.
"The case studies in this year's collection are representative of the very best in excellence, innovation and positive impact on society. In fact, comparing the case studies of the last 15 years, I think this group is absolutely the best ever," said McGovern.
Bennett's firm, a Los Angeles-based media company, developed a digital asset management system that allows users to search and see low-resolution versions of more than 400,000 videotapes. BEA Systems Inc. in San Jose nominated the E Network project that won in the Media, Arts & Entertainment division.
Another winner, Phoenix-based American Express Corporate Travel Solutions, developed a centralized, Internet-based system that allows travelers and agents to work together in real time, anywhere. In addition to improving convenience and travel planning, the system lets travel managers know where their travelers are, according to Michael Laughlin, the company's vice president and CTO.
"In case of emergencies, like Sept. 11 ... we can help them get back to where they need to be," said Laughlin. New York-based Cap Gemini Ernst & Young nominated the project, which won in the Transportation category.
The Honors program also has its share of visionary projects, and Madrid-based Wireless & Satellite Networks developed one of the most expansive.
This company, formed only in March 2000, built a wireless network that offers the 68,000 residents of Zamora, Spain, ubiquitous Wi-Fi access from their homes, cafes and streets for less than $10 a month, said Ignacio Ozcariz, CEO of Wireless & Satellite.
With a citywide wireless model established, Ozcariz said, a similar Wi-Fi network could be deployed in any city. "New York is around 40 to 50 Zamoras," he said. Intel Corp. nominated the project, which won in the Business & Related Services category.
The Earth Simulator Center in Yokohama, Japan, uses the world's most powerful supercomputer to analyze and predict unusual natural phenomena, such as typhoons, El Nino, earthquakes and changes brought by human activity, such as global warming and ozone depletion. The project received an Achievement Award for visionary use of IT in the category of Environment, Energy & Agriculture.

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