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During the last years, there has been an increasing interest in technology-related topics in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Evidence of this is the increasing number of events where communicators and technologists meet to discuss new ways to use technology to share the Gospel. Some of these events are international (such as the Global Adventist internet Network (GaiN) forum, while others are focused on particular divisions and conferences. Moreover, a good number of articles with suggestive titles, such as “Cyber Geeks and Jesus”, make evident the hunger for technology in the church. Also, Adventist News Network (ANN) has empowered the use of social media and technology with two interesting segments on a weekly video magazine. These are not isolated facts. Elder Ted Wilson said: “There are many plans we are currently working on that have to do with large-scale evangelistic activity, a massive use of media integration, a convergence of every possible kind of media usage, including television, radio, Internet, publishing, and other media outlets within the church." Amid this technological boom, a question arises: What's next in communication and IT in our church? In order to answer this question, first it is necessary to describe a framework in which communication and IT are positioned in our organization. Then, it will be easy to identify what has been done and what needs to be solved in the future. Imagine this framework as a four-wheel wagon. The two front wheels represent communication and the two rear wheels represent IT. Each wheel illustrates the following dimensions:
- Dimension of communication use: This dimension is about using traditional (e.g. radio and TV) and new ways (e.g. the Internet) to communicate the Gospel. Well-established communication departments in all levels of our organization enrich this dimension. What's next? We should look for attractive and pedagogical ways to teach pastors and church members to use the latest and most effective technologies. For instance, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be used to teach them how to do Internet evangelism. Basic concepts can be taught with simple and innovative ways such as cartoons and short video clips.
- Dimension of communication development: This dimension is about developing effective communication strategies. For example, successful campaigns have been developed in this dimension to position hashtags, such as #RBHW, as a trend topic in Twitter. What's next? We should give emphasis on creating more mass communication strategies. These strategies can be cheap--for example, using the social media which is visible to millions.
- Dimension of IT use: This dimension supports daily tasks with a computing infrastructure (e.g. servers, networks, etc.). The software that we use in daily activities (e.g. word processors and accounting software) are also in this dimension. I have realized that IT departments in different divisions and conferences mainly focus in IT maintenance and rarely play a strategic role. What's next? In my opinion, the next step is to consider IT departments as strategic assets. We should move from focusing only on IT maintenance into a more strategic role.
- Dimension of IT development: This dimension is about developing strategic technologies to support the Adventist mission. Although some divisions already have strategic IT departments, most of them do not. The following simple question can help us to understand the current panorama of this dimension: How many apps in Apple Store have been developed by Adventist IT departments to reach the postmodern society? The answer is, not so many. What's next? IT departments should be motivated to use the best methodologies and tools to create technologies to invigorate the Adventist mission and our institutions (for example, for reducing costs). Furthermore, knowledge and resources should flow fluently among IT departments around the world. In this way, they will help and learn from each other.
Traditionally, the focus has been on communication and IT usage-related dimensions. Although these dimensions should be strengthened, more emphasis needs to be put on the development of communication strategies and technologies. As there are communication departments in every division, I encourage leveraging IT departments to a more strategic position. In addition, Adventist universities should be encouraged to train communication and IT departments and help them develop strategies to support the Adventist mission. In conclusion, although we have taken significant steps, there is a lot to be done, specially in the dimension of IT development. As a wagon cannot go forward with a missing wheel, the aforementioned dimensions cannot work in isolation; they have to work together in symmetry to preach the Gospel, help the needy, and support our institutions.
Harvey Alférez is a lecturer of computer science at Montemorelos University. He is currently doing a PhD in Computer Science at Valencia, Spain. He has worked in Adventist universities, IT companies, and research groups on four continents.