Next Big Killer App: Education

Published October 1, 2000

Earlier this year, Merrill Lynch’s Global Growth Group in San Francisco published a 355-page in-depth report titled The Knowledge Web, an analysis of how the Internet is catalyzing change in the $2.2 trillion knowledge enterprise industry.

The online component of that industry is expected to grow from today’s $9.4 billion to over $50 billion by 2003.

E-commerce takes place in a rapidly changing global marketplace where human capital has replaced physical capital as the source of competitive advantage, creating a need for better, faster, and smarter workers.

The acquisition and retention of knowledge workers in this marketplace will be critical to the ongoing success of an enterprise. The continuum of human capital solutions to this challenge is what the report’s authors, Michael T. Moe and Henry Blodget, call the “knowledge web.” While global corporations need to do a good job recruiting knowledge workers and providing them with lifelong learning opportunities, K-12 schools must first produce them.

“The fundamental and massive problem of global competitiveness and obtaining human knowledge workers reaches all the way down to the K-12 level,” warn Moe and Blodget, noting K-12 education must be improved to create an adequate supply of knowledge workers. But just as the Internet has served as a catalyst to bring huge changes and improvements to the world of commerce, the authors see the Internet as a catalyst that also will help “revolutionize a failing primary education system.”

“The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education,” says John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems.

Merrill Lynch Global Growth Group projects that the online portion of K-12 education will grow from $1.3 billion in 1999 to $6.9 billion by 2003. Already, 96 percent of the nation’s K-12 schools and 51 percent of the classrooms have at least one Internet-linked computer. In 1994, virtually no K-12 student had Internet access; by 1994, 10 million did; by 2002, the number could reach 40 million.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.