Global Information Summit 2001
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Since the inauguration of this Summit in 1998, the "Global Information Summit-Net Conference" has been held in conjunction with the Summit in March. Participants in the Net Conference include learned persons and experts in the IT field, speakers from the Sponsors, policy-makers and lecturers scheduled for the Summit. Details of these active discussions are made public. This year the discussion focuses on: "What social changes and issues will occur in an ubiquitous information environment?"

Discussion content has been reported in the Nikkei Industrial Daily once a week in February, in Nikkei's special feature on March 26, and on this website.
Participants of English Online Conference
Japanese Online Conference (in Japanese)
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Net Conference
Theme: Launching the Era of the Ubiquitous Network
-Constant Availability of Broadband Networks
February 1 - 4 February 5 - 8 February 9 - 19 February 19 - 26
February 27 -


Summary 5 : February 27-March 5

In this final summary of the English discussion on ubiquitous networks, before all issues are brought together at the conference of the Global Information Summit in Tokyo on March 8-9, the question of government or private sector leadership in promoting universal broadband links takes center stage.

The catalyst for this topic came from logistics expert Ken Lyon who believes that the introduction of the Minitel network in France provides evidence of the unexpected outcomes which can arise from attempts to dictate the nature and purpose of a widespread electronic network.

The French attempt to build a support platform for electronic services aimed at business and professionals, actually resulted in creating a base for the sex industry serving individuals. While the professional market eventually came online, the promotion by the government of a parochial system with a distinct protocol inhibited the spread of the Internet in France because of compatibility problems.

Lyon also points out that the dream of a universal business-to-business network linking trading partners is in fact a bit of a nightmare to bring about because of the unique nature and particular needs of each company. Building an information-rich network that is universal but nonetheless tailored to the specific needs of firms, is a major challenge.

He advocates allowing universal networks to evolve and recommends that governments resist the temptation to legislate.

His comments stimulated much thought and prompted several replies. Lewis Branscomb, professor emeritus of public policy and corporate management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, agrees that differences between companies pose a major restraint to the creation of ubiquitous networks. He believes the public and private sectors must seek to overcome the incompatibility of institutions rather than software when setting spending priorities for investment budgets.

The simple question, "What's the use of it?" was posed by Georges Fischer, head of electronic developments at the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry and chairman of the Worldchambers Consortium, a project to link chambers of commerce worldwide.

He says this question will be asked by users of any network, no matter how wonderful and exciting it seems to its proponents. He lists three strategies for making networks acceptable, but emphasizes that each must address the interests of users.

A network can be made mandatory, an unpleasant but efficient option, he says, which was largely the Minitel approach. The same could be tried for ubiquitous networks, forcing consumers to conform to some administrative protocol, but without a clear benefit, like cost-savings, user-friendliness or simplicity, the attempt will be opposed, whether mandatory or not.

A longer-term, more rewarding approach is to educate the market, but this consumes time and resources, he says. To back Minitel, France Telecom handed out 5 million free terminals, something he doubts could be done for a network as extensive as the Internet.

The third approach is to follow the market and allow a network to develop according to demand, which basically happened with Minitel, despite the French Government not intending it to serve the sex industry, which also dominates the Internet.

The third approach involves the risk of not knowing what kind of network will eventually emerge, Fischer says, but it is the best path to acceptability. He adds that the spread of the Internet in France was not so much limited by the presence of Minitel but the failure of the Net to provide a clear cost or service advantage over the existing format.

VeriSign Inc. President Tony Rutkowski argues that the Minitel example offers a lesson in the dangers of governments trying to force a technical standard on electronic networks. He says the French government spent billions via Minitel trying to support OSI (Open System Interconnection) against Internet and other de facto protocols.

Branscomb rejoined saying France tried to achieve two somewhat incompatible objectives with one strategy -- introducing 5 million households to digital networking, while establishing a standard for interoperability within France.

The giving away of free hardware achieved both objectives but locked in an architecture and set of protocols that could not survive on the world stage, while too little attention was given to the development of applications.

A more general purpose device architecture, able to handle the alternative TCP/IP standard, would have resulted in faster acceptance of electronic networks in France.

He suggests that the basic policy issue facing governments is to decide whether it is better to create technology options that allow markets to develop, or select and nurture the markets that drive technology. The U.S. prefers the first option, he says, while Europe is drawn to the second.

The discussion sets the stage for the Tokyo conference, where many of the valuable insights arising from the e-mail discussion will be taken up.

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Summary 4 : February 19-26

After a furious exchange of ideas and comments over the past few weeks, the discussion on universal access to high bandwidth networks has calmed down a little, no doubt signaling that another storm of opinions and questions is brewing.

This week, VeriSign Inc. President Tony Rutkowski gives a useful answer to the question of what it means for a network to have ubiquity, an issue dominating the parallel Japanese discussion and brought to the attention of English participants by Dr. Makoto Yokozawa of the Nomura Research Institute.

Rutkowski suggests a network would have to be readily connectable to be classed as ubiquitous, a seemingly simple requirement but an enormously complex task in practice, involving economic and technical tradeoffs affecting bandwidth and network management. This relates to access, which raises additional questions of authentication, privacy and billing practices.

Another feature is reachability, meaning a network must be bidirectional, posing questions related to security and privacy. A ubiquitous network must also be supported by resource availability, that is, it must have granularity or complexity and be easily upgradable in affordable, incremental steps to meet users changing needs.

Rutkowski also suggests decisions must be made about whom a network is meant to serve, for what devices and on what scale. As the experience of the mobile telecommunications sector shows, he suggests security will be the most difficult problem to overcome.

Bruce McConnell of McConnell International Inc. addresses a question put by discussion moderator Masanobu Katoh about what leaders in the private sector can do to encourage the spread of ubiquitous networks. McConnell says they must offer vision and show the benefits to ordinary people, while adopting ethical computing and business practices in their firms to encourage confidence. They must also build coalitions with nongovernmental organizations and governments to overcome the challenges ahead.

Addressing the role to be played by governments, an issue also raised by Katoh, McConnell says they should "convene and listen" by providing a neutral meeting ground for stakeholders, while keeping an open mind about the need for government action beyond the limits of the market. They should also iterate proposals, meaning they should consult openly, both formally and informally, with the private sector to ensure policies serve the greatest good.

The must reinvent themselves too and become model users of ubiquitous networks. And while nations are required to act defensively in protecting their borders in the physical world, in cyberspace, they must learn to cooperate and recognize the Internet and transnational private sector organizations as partners rather than threats.

Don Heath, president and CEO of the Internet Society, replies to concerns expressed by Ken Lyon, a logistics expert, about rival networks being incompatible. Heath says an omnipresent network must be truly transparent, independent, multidimensional and available for multiple applications, whatever the communications purpose. He also supports Lyon's position that governments must resist the temptation to regulate, unless necessary.

In an effort to push the discussion further along this path, moderator Katoh asks participants to consider the issues raised by lawyer, NTT adviser and academic Sadahiko Kano about privacy, given the proactive nature of hidden sensors capable of monitoring our daily lives over ubiquitous networks. Kano asks whether this possibility creates additional roles for government, prompting Katoh to encourage more discussion on the relationship between the public and private sectors.
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Summary 3 : February 9-19

Major obstacles to the spread of ubiquitous networks dominate the latest discussion, notably the digital divide between information rich and poor nations, the need for a global management system and a universal, multilingual contents directory.

The proliferation of devices with different operating systems and the staking out of exclusive territories by rival firms are also identified as impediments to universality.

Other concerns include the risk of governments relying on old models to regulate broadcasting over broadband networks which are oblivious to national boundaries. Pressure is also mounting for greater discussion on the issue of freedom and privacy posed by the spread of microchips, linked by universal networks and capable of monitoring our every move.

University of Maryland Professor Ernest Wilson starkly presents the situation facing developing countries struggling to keep pace in the information age, saying they must ask themselves, what is the cost of not being connected to a ubiquitous network. He says more research is needed to demonstrate the cost of exclusion before truly global networks are possible. His concern is supported by Bruno Levin, senior advisor at the World Bank on e-commerce and e-government matters.

Bruce McConnell, president of technology consultancy firm McConnell International LLC, also calls on private industry and NGOs to persuade developing nations to take the plunge so they are not left behind. He also argues that security will become the Achilles' heel of ubiquitous networks, unless guarantees are given that private information will only go to its intended destination. Another of his worries is government reaction to the threatened loss of national sovereignty posed by global networks. He also urges more discussion on whether ubiquitous networks will liberate or imprison us through the spread of devices able to monitor our lives.

This concern drew a response from Sadahiko Kano, a lawyer, executive adviser to NTT and visiting professor at Waseda and Edinburgh universities. He said the Japanese discussion has focused on the meaning of the term "ubiquitous networks." Are they passive links for people to consciously connect a variety of devices via the Internet, or a more proactive space where increasingly hard-to-notice sensors in cameras, hidden microphones, light detectors and the like monitor us, even if we do not have a computer? He calls for a regulatory framework to protect privacy and the development of ways to avoid unwanted intrusion by constant networks.

Establishing a globally coordinated and distributed contents directory service is a looming challenge, according to Hiroshi Esaki of the University of Tokyo, raising questions related to business models, technology and copyright, all requiring global collaboration to solve.

Former IBM Corp. Chief Scientist and now Emeritus Professor at Harvard University Lewis Branscomb fears a world of chaos is developing as commercial interests dictate trends in IT architecture and information services.

He says the future of a global network depends on multilingual search engines capable of instant translations, and intermediary services offering high quality data assessment and editing. But he fears the bewildering variety of networked devices, with their own operating systems and lacking any integrative architecture, will lead to chaos and a division between devices for personal and entertainment purposes and those for business use.

Branscomb believes current restructuring trends might result in large firms offering both network and content services, producing a stovepipe structure in the IT industry, where each firm seeks to control its content and customer list, while limiting interconnection with other networks.

His view prompted a response from VeriSign Inc. Vice President Tony Rutkowski who points out that, historically, openness has won out over proprietary solutions in building networks. Branscomb replied that he fears that the greater variety of classes of network users could prevent the development of a common interest.

David Olive, deputy general manager of Fujitsu's Washington D.C. Office, asks whether, under Branscomb's scenario, governments would rush to regulate. He also asks whether the need for the global contents directory envisioned by Esaki would be hampered by national broadcasting rules, prompting Esaki to respond that rule changes are unavoidable.

Rutkowski also makes a passionate plea for entrepreneurial chaos, saying attempts by governments to impose the OSI (open system interconnection) protocol resulted in much time and billions of dollars being spent without success.

A provocative but nonetheless serious view comes from Bradley Bartz, founder of e-mail provider service JMAIL Co., who asks, what if consumers are not interested in faster broadband networks. He fears inertia could set in as consumers resist the extra costs associated with broadbanding.

Logistics expert Ken Lyon, founder of a company which handles supply chain problems, says it is difficult to foresee where constant, readily available high-speed networks will take us. He says predictions that advanced planning and forecasting systems would revolutionize manufacturing processes have failed to materialize, mainly because such information rich systems need to be highly focused and adaptable to particular needs. He calls on governments to allow broadband networks to evolve naturally and resist the temptation to regulate too closely.

Bill St. Arnaud of the nonprofit group CANARIE, which promotes Internet development in Canada, says the spread of widespread broadband networks is constrained because useful infrastructure is in the hands of existing monopolistic telephone and cable firms. He advocates condominium or customer-owned fiber networks and calls on governments to show leadership, not by building such networks, but by transferring business to condominium network operators and providing other forms of financial support. (End)

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Summary 2 : February 5-8

Moderator Masanobu Katoh sent his personal thanks to the growing list of contributors to the discussion on ubiquitous networks, praising them for the value and quality of their contributions.

New concerns and themes already established are being pursued by the latest contributors, especially questions over international standards for broadband networks, privacy and the role of government in regulating developments.

One of the most challenging comments comes from Richard Dasher, Director of the US-Japan Technology Management Center at Stanford University, who says no "killer technology" exists to grab the imaginations of consumers and spur demand for truly ubiquitous networks.

Even NTT DoCoMo's immensely popular i-mode Internet service for cell phones lacks a compelling application, he says, believing its growth will prove short-lived and is only sustained by falling charges, the cheap cost of sending short text messages compared with voice calls and garden variety Web-browsing. Without compelling applications emerging from the current framework to drive demand for ubiquitous networks, the likelihood of overcoming the many technical and legal challenges is slim, he says.

David Olive, Deputy General Manager of Fujitsu Limited's Washington Office, is most concerned about issues relating to infrastructure, security, privacy and the digital divide between nations.

He asks whether an increasingly fragmented and privatized telecom infrastructure may present significant challenges in coordinating global networks and ponders the role government should play in security matters, given the threat of attacks on e-commerce sites and the need for international cooperation.

Privacy issues are equally vexed, he says, and most fraught with tension between industry self-regualtion and government-backed protection as more people connect to networks. Olive fears the personal information gathered by Internet service providers and others could be used to track individuals and violate their privacy, and again wonders whether progress is being made toward international consensus.

Paul Timmers, from the European Commission's Information Society Directorate-General and mostly involved with e-commerce issues, directs participants to a valuable research paper available online which offers four scenarios based on mainly technological challenges thrown up by ubiquitous networks, or ambient intelligence, as he calls it. The paper also raises economic and social issues and suggests possible business models and strategies.

In a similar vein, Marja Erola, business development manager at Finnish company Tellabs Oy, which specializes in advanced networks, provides an extensive list of reference sites and materials, covering her own company's research, OECD and European Commission policy papers, as well as the economic impact of 3G wireless technology and bandwidth use and pricing in the U.S.

Another welcome e-mail comes from lawyer J.J. Disini, who teaches Cyberspace law at the University of the Philippines and has been helping to implement the country's E-Commerce Act, passed last year. He gives a quick hello and says he preparing to jump into the ongoing discussion. Stay tuned.
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Summary 1 : February 1-4

The online discussion as part the Global Information Summit Net Conference 2001 on the commercial development of constant, universal broadband networks has drawn some challenging responses suggesting the wonder of anywhere, anytime communication from everyday items may be jeopardized by excessive regulations and consumer resistance to the intrusive nature of technology with the potential to monitor all we buy and do.

The English discussion for the conference hosted by Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc. was kicked off by moderator Masanobu Katoh, General Manager of Fujitsu Ltd.'s Washington D.C. office and Chief Counsel for Global E-Commerce.

Calling on participants to address the theme, "Launching the Era Of the Ubiquitous Network - Constant Availability Of Broadband Networks," Katoh provoked some insightful responses from pioneers in the field.

Against a backdrop of feared tyrannical regulators and Big Brother nosiness, they paint a world of undreamed human convenience and interaction, where discrimination is destroyed and identity freely chosen and easily changed. The many challenging technical problems seem insignificant in comparison to the difficulties foreseen in protecting privacy and offering fair and open access to all in the era of ubiquitous networks.

Early contributors to the debate include Tony Rutkowski, Vice president for Internet Strategy at U.S. firm Verisign Inc., Don Heath, President and CEO of The Internet Society, which sets Net technical standards and policies, and Wolfgang Hennes, who examines business possibilities over broadband networks at Lycos Europe, a joint venture between Lycos Inc. of the U.S. and the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.

While the arrival of a truly ubiquitous network is seen as inevitable by all participants, Rutkowski fears excessive regulation might stifle development. He also adds the sobering thought that while the technology offers networks that are always on, consumers may prefer one that is sometimes off.

He points out people could adopt multiple identities in a broadband environment according to their needs, an exciting prospect but one that raises questions about authentication.

Don Heath complains that while constant networks offer the possibility of everyday items implanted with cheap chips allowing automatic reordering, we need to think beyond simple transaction-type uses. He imagines a set of future eyeglasses able to download data pertaining to what the wearer is seeing.

The question of allocating site addresses is central to Heath who fears the tyranny of an all powerful authority approving a request from one firm but not another. The government structures required to ensure fairness and equality are beyond anything humanity has created so far, he says.

Wolfgang Hennes seeks answers to some very pragmatic questions. He fears the development of a mass market over a ubiquitous network might take time and wonders what kind of devices will use these networks, PCs, TVs, mobile handsets, or a hybrid of all three? He is also unsure of data compression standards and the type of content needed to excite consumer interest. Perhaps his most important question though, given the current gloom on global stock markets, is whether investors will overreact to excessive hype about broadband developments in the way they did with Internet stocks.

Rutkowski replies that compression standards and networks will be diverse, as will devices, but they will be able to make use of multiple interfaces, protocols and applications. He also worries that unfriendly regulatory, pricing and tax practices outside the U.S will slow the spread of constant networks.

In reply to Heath, Rutkowski says problems relating to address allocation may prove less troublesome than the monumental difficulties associated with privacy and security, issues likely to generate resistance in the broader community to all pervasive communications. He suggests existing national and international forums, including the World Trade Organization could already handle address disputes.

Two participants running electronic businesses in Japan are drawing on their valuable experiences. Terrie Lloyd operates LINC Media Inc. and the Japan Inc. publication and wants discussion on NTT DoCoMOs international expansion, while also suggesting an idea for franchising mobile base stations to handle phone calls using Bluetooth technology.

Bradley Bartz, founder of the widely used free e-mail provider JMAIL Co., contributes his frustrating run-in with Japanese authorities over the address issue, after losing priority rights to domain names in Japan, a matter he threatens to take to the WTO with help from the U.S. Department of Justice.

And this is only the beginning of a debate which is outlining a future of fantastic possibilities with disturbing implications in need of urgent attention. The debate continues online until the conference meeting in Tokyo on March 8-9.
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Opinions submitted to the Net Conference
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For further information contact: The Global Information Summit Secretariat gis@nikkei.co.jp
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