December 12, 2003Business as usual. Business knows to behave itself at UN conferences. Don't come in strength. Smile a lot. And use the word 'partnership' whenever things get dicey.
Its final statement came in the form of a speech from Richard McCormick, honorary chair of the ICC. In most part, it was another a plea for the status quo and also for patience.
Business will deliver ICTs, if government keeps out of the way. ICTs will change lives for the better, if people receive sufficient education and training.
Oh - and hands off the internet. "Do we want to blunt this remarkable tool at the precise moment it is poised to bring about the most positive change in people's lives?"
In the end, though, one should remember that few of the business leaders who really matter to ICT were here. No Larry Ellison. No Carly Fiorina. No Bill Gates (who, of course, is a huge donor, as well a business giant).
They're probably coming to Switzerland - but for the World Economic Forum in Davos early next year. Perhaps Daily Summit missed something, but WSIS seems to have passed well-below their radar. After a UN/business love-in, Daily Summit asked Microsoft Managing Director for Global Affairs, Pamela Passman what the company hoped to achieve at the summit.
"It's been an incredible opportunity to put together all the stakeholders who are incredibly passionate about IT for development," Passman replied, in fluent NGO-speak. "We all have to do more. We need to engage in broader and deeper dialogue and partnerships. We have a milestone in 2005 in Tunis and we're very focused on ensuring there's some tangible developments for then."
She underlined Microsoft's "expanded relationship" with the UN (a double paranoia attack for those who worry about black helicopters or the evil empire) - especially work developing community technology centres in refugee camps in partnership with UNHCR.
Passman claimed that Microsoft had been working hard to ensure "all voices can be heard" on controversial issues such as internet governance, adding that "the focus on these issues is tremendous." And, with that, she slipped from the room...
December 10, 2003Business has been clearing up the ICANN confusion - but bemusing me further.
At an International Chamber of Commerce press conference, ICC boss Maria Livanos Cattaui said "internet governance doesn't exist" - but then implied that she thought it should do.
It's a three step argument. Step one: ICANN doesn't, and shouldn't , govern the internet - "it's a very sophisticated directory." Step two: there are lots of complex "public policy" issues that someone needs to deal with (porn, spam, intellectual property etc). Step three: some mechanism is needed to increase co-operation in this area.
OK. But what mechanism? A "multi-stakeholder forum," a "platform," but something that stops short of an "organisation". I think. More productive? An earlier Daily Summit piece on productivity led reader Chris Stokes to comment: "If we are indeed going to hear a lot about how ICTs are going to boost productivity, I do hope we hear first that the IT productivity paradox has been solved once and for all... the fact remains that over the period when investment in ICTs has shot up (since say the 60s), productivity has refused to follow suit and insisted instead on stagnating."
Maybe this McKinsey Global Institute study, reported in the Harvard Business Review, is relevant. It claims that a "new economy" does exist in the US - but it behaves differently from how many people think.
The authors base their findings on "a large body of statistical and experiental evidence... in-depth case studies of 20 industries, eight in the United States and six apiece in Germany and France... [and] extensive interviews with executives in each sector."
The US has recently enjoyed strong productivity growth in 1990s, the study claims, at a time when "in many industries, technology spending doubled as business wove computer and communication systems more deeply into the fabric of their operations."
But there was little correlation between productivity growth and IT investment. In fact most of the gain (76%) came from just six sectors - retailing, securities brokerage, wholesaling, semi-conductors, computer assembly. Other sectors saw little return for their investment in IT.
So what's going on? According to Diana Farrell, McKinsey Global Institute Director, highly competitive sectors did well, while more regulated ones did poorly. When competition was fierce, managers were forced to innovate, creating new products and services, adopting with new business processes, and introducing new technologies:
"There are many ways to innovate, of course," Farrell writes, "but during the 1990s information technology proved to be a particularly powerful tool. We found three reasons why that was so. First, IT enabled the development of both attractive new products and efficient new business processes. Second, it facilitated the rapid industrywide diffusion of innovations. And third, it exhibited strong scale economies - its benefits multiplied rapidly as its use expanded."
Successful IT investments differ greatly from industry to industry - indeed, Farrell says that "no general-purpose application had much effect on productivity." Customer relationship management (CRM) systems, for example, generally produced disappointing results, while highly-specialised applications peformed much more effectively.
Managerial and technological innovation must also be pursued in tandem. "Walmart, for instance, would have gained little from its investments in innovative information systems if it hadn't also refined its relationship with suppliers and dramatically simplified the logistics practices at its distribution centers."
"A critical dynamic of the new economy - the real new economy - is the virtuous cycle of competition, innovation and productivity growth," she concludes.
Daily Summit doesn't think the issue is settled, it's a data point...
December 09, 2003Leopard changing spots? So, we were listening to experts discussing ways of bridging the digital divide... and one says "breaking monopolies" is a way forward.
The speaker was Jean-Philippe Courtois, senior vice president and CEO of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa. You know, Microsoft.
He was cagey when we asked him to explain, and said when "the market was opened up" for telecoms companies in monopoly states, it seemed to be beneficial.
Erin Dean @ 04:40 PM | Comments (1)
December 08, 2003Daily Summit has written about the sheer number of government, NGO and media delegates attending WSIS - but Forbes has a different complaint. Too few business delegates:
"As of yesterday, the Geneva WSIS registered nearly 13,000 participants from 174 countries. More than 9,000 are from states or non-governmental organizations. Just 636 are from businesses. Business members include such companies as might be expected like Microsoft, IBM and Time Warner, as well as multinationals like Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola and McDonald's, not particularly known for their roles in the information society."
December 05, 2003From the department of the bleeding obvious, IT firms use jargon 'to deceive'.
November 25, 2003In the news, the India Economic Summit is receiving plenty of coverage. With 1 million people employed, the ICT sector is being touted as a model for other industries. However, there are worries about a backlash from rich countries losing jobs (some US comment here).
Meanwhile, Disney and Rupert Murdoch's Star India have plans for the sub-continent, with Star's CEO claiming that India "could become an important destination for production of entertainment software." Bollywood film makers agree, with one predicting that 70 percent of global revenue in the entertainment business will come from Asia over the next 10 years.
No summit is complete without demonstrations. In New Delhi, Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, is being compared to Hitler.
David Steven @ 08:10 AM | TrackBack
November 15, 2003Protests in Geneva At the Metallos Media Lab in Paris last night, actvists were discussing in more detail the protest actions that would be taking place in Geneva, as part of the continuing European Social Forum.
Unlike Thursday's meeting in Bobigny, which focused on the issues which would be discussed in the official summit and the parallel events, this meeting concerned itself with counter-actions.
These events will be happening in the centre of Geneva itself, far away from the Palexpo where WSIS is being held. However the organisers hope to attract NGOs and civil society organisations who are disillusioned with the official WSIS proceedings.
The organisers are angry that the summit does not have any real binding legislative power - they believe that the corporate sector does not care about the summit, and that NGOs have only been given a token presence to give the proceedings some air of legitimacy.
There are three main initiatives taking place during the week:
Dan Walters @ 11:17 AM
November 11, 2003In the news, Associated Press reports that the French Prime Minister and German Chancellor are among 56 world leaders committed to attending the summit, while the World Bank is resisting plans proposed by Senegal for a special fund to address the digital divide.
According to a Bank spokesman: "It's a very powerful concept, [but] generally people are not excited by the idea of creating a special fund that entails massive arrangements. The bank would not support something that would generate a few million dollars for African countries and cost the same amount in managing."
David Steven @ 09:09 AM
November 07, 2003Coming soon - a business portal for the summit...
David Steven @ 09:17 AM | TrackBack
November 06, 2003"Citizen to citizen connections?" Nitin Desai, the UN man putting this summit in place, tells Fortune magazine why WSIS will be more than just "window dressing" for the telecoms industry.
Aaron Scullion @ 11:12 AM | TrackBack
October 25, 2003Telephone Tax. Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade has proposed a global tax on international calls, personal computers and software packages. Revenue would fund a "digital solidarity" fund to help Africa catch up with the IT revolution.
"It is paradoxical and ironic that the continent which invented writing . . . [is] excluded from universal knowledge," the President commented.
His tax, he argued, would be a painless one. Daily Summit is not so sure - shrieks of pain can be expected from IT lobbies should the proposal ever be put seriously on the table once the summit gets going in Geneva next month...
David Steven @ 10:47 AM | TrackBack