Global Forum 2010 Spotlights Trends in "Open Innovation" and Broadband Economic Development

With a theme of advancing economic development worldwide, the 19th annual Global Forum met this week in the U.S. for the first time since 2002.

By Jay Gillette, Special to Network World
Fri, November 12, 2010

Network World — With a theme of advancing economic development worldwide, the 19th annual Global Forum met this week in the U.S. for the first time since 2002.

Called "the Davos of IT," Global Forum's annual themes often track world trends in the information and communication industries. Attracting invited participants from 28 countries, this year's talks focused on the theme, "ICT for an Empowered Society: A Smart and Innovative World."

Japan, for example is pursuing a "Smart Cloud" development strategy. It takes as given that there is a foundation of advanced infrastructure, and is now targeting applications with greater user participation and market uptake.

Yasuhiko Taniwaki, of Japan's Global ICT Strategy Bureau, notes that by next March, Japan will have 90% penetration in fiber-to-the-home, and 98% of subscribers will have 3G mobile devices. "So we have the broadband infrastructure," he said, and the challenge now is to increase uptake from the current 60% use of broadband services, when in fact Japan effectively has 100% availability.

In contrast, the United States is still working on a national broadband policy. Former FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, now Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Services (RUS) program, used the conference to reinforce his agency's Nov. 9 announcement that it will partner with the FCC's continuing development of the national broadband plan. The RUS program will add value by its long experience and database of information on rural communications deployment, he said.

Numerous questions arose in the conference about the FCC’s way forward in policy, after the midterm elections. FCC representatives, including Chairman Julius Genachowski, said policy initiatives already announced will continue.

Potential conflicts on network neutrality or spectrum reallocation were not emphasized, so those issues continue to loom unresolved in the United States policy arena.

Europeans, however, are incorporating communications policy as part of advancing the region's development. A new "Europe2020" economic initiative counts information and communication technology as one of its seven pillars of support. In May, the European Commission released its "Digital Agenda for Europe," with the vision "Every European Digital."

The "Digital Agenda" includes a heavy emphasis on research and development investment. Europe lags in information and communications R&D at 17% of total ICT spend, compared with the United States at 29% of ICT spend. Government innovation and support for R&D need new investment, and new intellectual premises, the Europeans argue.

Francisco García Morán, of the European Directorate General for Informatics, introduced his organization's new initiative on "Interoperability Solutions for Public Adminstration." Funded at 164 million euros for the next five years, its purpose is to coordinate eGovernment framework, policies and law, services, and generic tools across the EU's 27 member countries.

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