Time to Showcase America’s Tech

The United States needs a big, public technology event to show off our IT innovations.

When I started in this business 31 years ago, there was a major annual technology trade show called the National Computer Conference (NCC). It dwarfed everything that tried to be like it, including an upstart computer reseller show called the Computer Dealer’s Exhibition, better known as Comdex. Comdex, of course, became the central IT industry trade show when, in the late 1980s, NCC faded from the scene due to internal bickering among show management and tech vendors.

In 2004, Comdex, too, went to the trade show boneyard (it was relaunched as a virtual event in 2010). Nothing has replaced it. The United States needs a national technology exposition, open to the public, unlike most trade shows that are restricted to those in the industry.

Why shouldn’t we have one? Germany hosts the annual CeBit technology fair, and Spain has the Mobile World Congress, the globe’s pre-eminent mobility gig. All we have is the Consumer Electronics Show, vendor-­sponsored trade shows and thousands of small confabs across the country. Our nation needs a more cohesive voice.

The National Science Foundation recently released a report on the sorry state of innovation in this country. The bottom line: 86 percent of U.S. companies surveyed claimed they hadn’t introduced an innovative product, service or process between 2006 and 2008.

There’s lots of talk in Washington and elsewhere about the importance of technology-fueled innovation in America. It’s time to take action. The United States should launch a national technology conference, open to everyone, where we’ll display our technology innovations proudly. We’ll show how those innovations are enriching people’s lives around the world. Sections of the conference could be focused on renewable energy, healthcare, transportation, government, entertainment, the business enterprise, education and other industries. A national event could also help to get young Americans interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

What’s your take? Does America need a national technology trade fair? Check out the National Science Foundation report or write me and I’ll send you a copy. Pass this column around to your colleagues and let me know what they think. Tweet your ideas to @gbeach on Twitter, and let’s get a national dialogue started.

Gary Beach is the publisher emeritus of CIO magazine. Email him at gbeach@cio.com.

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