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  • Info Tech Key to Boosting Asian Economies, Summit Speakers Say
  • November 23, 1998 (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Vibrant demand-driven economic activity centering on information technology is needed to stimulate Asia's overall business climate, participants said at the Asia-Pacific Information Technology Summit held Nov. 19 and 20 in Santa Clara, Calif.
    For businesses, electronic-commerce over the Internet represents a means to accelerate the wealth generation effect, said Derek Williams, president of Oracle Corp.'s Asia-Pacific group.

    Williams noted that Asia requires lower-cost computing, reduced complexity in its data-processing environment, a greater degree of professionalism, and better quality information that is processed faster. In fact, Asia requires lower-cost, network-centered technologies immediately, he stressed.

    The role of governments in the age of the Internet is that of a referee that ensures a level playing field, many participants said. Governments are not entirely to be kept out of the picture, but their involvement should be minimal, to allow free spirits to emerge in the private sector. It's the free spirits and their innovative approaches that invigorate the new economy.

    Bandwidth constraints and the high cost of telecommunications capacity are major problems in the Asia-Pacific region, said Thomas Dijohn, vice president of The Fantastic Corp.

    The key to development for countries in the Asia-Pacific region is how swiftly they will adapt the Internet and IT for their unique uses, said Tatsuo Sato, state secretary at Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

    "The Japanese government and private companies are now collaborating on the next-generation Internet," Sato added.

    Edward Tian, president and CEO of China-based AsiaInfo Group, explained that Beijing is targeting large spending on telecom infrastructures in the current 1996-2000 economic plan, in part to create a nucleus for the Internet. In China, there are many basic complaints about Internet service, including slow access, high access fees, scant practical applications in the domestic economy and too few Chinese-language applications in general, Tian noted.

    China aims to implement a higher speed network over the next three years. Tian explained that AsiaInfo Group is just one of the private companies that is helping to define the parameters of the Internet in the world's most populous country.

    New communities must be formed in the Asia-Pacific region to take advantage of the IT world's fundamental promise, said Randall Whiting, president and CEO of CommerceNet.

    "We need greater collaboration across the Asia-Pacific region to enhance our prosperity and build a new economy," said Takashi Kitaoka, senior corporate advisor to Mitsubishi Electric Corp. Kitaoka, a former president of the Tokyo-based electronics company, said the public and private sectors are seriously addressing the telecom bandwidth problem in Japan.

    Kitaoka participates in the government's advisory body called the Advanced Information and Telecommunications Society Promotion Group. He sees Mitsubishi Electric playing a principal role in both information transmission through communications satellites or other means as well as dissemination of data through end-use terminals like PCs.

    The Silicon Valley was built by vibrant small companies, some of which eventually become big players in the information age, said Larry Irving, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for communication and information. Among those companies are Intel Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard Co. and others. Information technology has surpassed all other industries of the U.S. economy, including automobiles, to become the dominant and most dynamic sector, Irving added.

    Asia doesn't necessarily have to build Silicon Valley industrial parks to succeed. But it does need more of a sense of urgency and a greater dissemination of the Internet to serve as an effective foundation for the e-commerce of tomorrow.

    (Neil Davis, Asia BizTech Correspondent)

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    Updated: Sat Nov 21 23:30:04 1998 PDT