Like many others new to the University of Kentucky, I have noticed that the most important part of the university’s and the region’s success lies in its people. This community, with people that possess a combination of brilliance and graciousness, has the right ingredients for success. This strategic plan was assembled with the invaluable help and collaboration of many across the campus. For that we are grateful. Looking forward to the challenges ahead, this collaboration will be essential to achieve our goals.
Here and elsewhere, higher education is faced with difficult problems. The recent economic crisis is waning, and what appears ahead may be a difficult and uncertain recovery. The prospect of continually shrinking means to advance our mission is real, but educating our citizens continues to be a critical public objective. University of Kentucky leadership matters.
While current economic prospects may bring concern, the beneficial aspects of new forms of technology have never been more stirring to the imagination or more impactful on society. Information technology is developing everywhere. Education and healthcare at a distance via high-speed Internet connections are now practical. Next-generation imaging technology is enabling scientists and historians to discover previously inaccessible secrets of the human body and historical artifacts thought to be too damaged to be read. Researchers are running simulations of molecules for drug design and deciphering the origins of the universe with a quantity of data and a need for computational cycles unimaginable just a decade ago. The next generation of supercomputers is coming on line in the United States at eye-popping performance levels, scale, and cost. Social networking has exploded in just a few years from being a mild amusement to now richly connecting more than 450 million people across the globe. By the end of 2010, mobile phone technology will be in the hands of about 5 billion people, roughly 70 percent of the world’s population. The availability of books, magazines, and scholarly articles via electronic readers is on an unprecedented rise.
Public policy may be changing to reflect this new reality. Governments are beginning to recognize the need to reach rural underserved areas with high-speed connections. The demand for IT in education, research, and healthcare continues to accelerate.
While the digital divide separating those who have access to educational information and those who do not may be moving in the right direction, a line needs to be erased. The exponential growth in information creates big opportunities and equally difficult problems. The complex information distribution channels now available can fragment, isolate, and confuse people, creating challenges for government and education. This explosion
of information requires growth in individual information literacy and a body of authentic institutions, virtual and physical, that people can trust, learn from, and rally around.
The University of Kentucky is one such critical institution. To be not just viable but also vibrant in the coming years, we will need to leverage information technology adroitly. The uncertainty and promise ahead are both unsettling and exhilarating. The University of Kentucky’s leadership is needed now more than ever. To create the future we collectively desire will require the efforts of the IT community. This plan is just one small but important step in shaping our future.