Post by Jennifer Greeson Dunn, Senior Manager, Public RelationsWatching last night’s debate, I was struck by the utter lack of creativity and vision when both candidates answered the question about “climate control” (or climate change as John McCain corrected Bob Scheiffer). Obama and McCain both offered flat, uninspired answers that focused largely on 20th century means of energy production and environmental conservation. Build 45 new nuclear power plants right away? Really? And where is that money going to come from? The laundry list of solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Nothing new there. I would love to see one of the candidates focus on an energy-independance partnership between industry and government, the kind that got us to the moon 40-something years ago. Let’s use U.S. history of innovation and technological prowess to develop solutions that reduce environmental impact and help us better monitor, manage and reduce energy consumption. Call it the Green-hattan project, or whatever.Many in industry and academia are already thinking this way. The”Smart 2020 ” report released by The Climate Group and GeSI earlier this year highlighted the opportunity to be gained in many sectors of the economy by using IT to manage environmental concerns. Timely enough, a new study out today by McKinsey reinforces that notion. At Cisco we are focusing on this idea and how we can use our expertise in networking technology to manage our own GHG emissions reduction goal (25% over 4 years!) and to help our customers to do the same. Solutions like Cisco Connected Real Estate and our partnership with six international cities on Connected Urban Development are just two examples of putting that vision into reality.I hope whomever is our next President will think about these options and look at the energy-independence issue a little more creatively than we heard discussed last night.
Largely overshadowed by the race south of the border, Canadians are also in the midst of an election that will pick the nation’s next Prime Minister. But unlike developing trends in the U.S., it’s far from clear what the outcome will be.Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see the two main contenders back to back. While both leaders have the nation’s well-being at the root of their promises, all of the political parties have failed to resonate or stir debate among the digital generation.While movie stars and musicians have long been part of the U.S. political process, it’s still somewhat of a novelty up here. During one of those political events this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Baker, the guitarist from the Tragically Hip. He wasn’t hard to pick out of the suit and tie crowd in the room. While he was wearing a suit and tie, he was the only one sporting the a¼ber cool 1970s style beard with hair longer than most. After discovering we both had a great admiration and love of Gordon Lightfoot’s music (in fact a compilation of Gord’s tunes remains a permanent fixture in my vehicle), the conversation turned to politics and why he was involved. In very articulate and insightful reasoning, he carefully outlined why he felt it important to participate. It didn’t matter to me what party he did or didn’t support. What mattered was his engagement in the process -his interest to get involved had been tweaked. How can that similar interest be tweaked in younger generations?Voter turn-out within the youth demographic has been in steady decline and this election should prove to be no different. For successive election post-mortems the media, politicians, and voters have openly discussed what needs to be done to engage youth. Yes all of the leaders have been twittering, myspacing, facebooking, and using other types of social networking tools to attract votes -but just votes, not to engage them in a dialogue or demonstrate a clear vision on where technology and its tools will take us. Perhaps it’s partly due to a generation of political operatives who didn’t grow up with all things digital and who can’t see technology as the transformative tool it truly is. Large and small entities across the country have embraced collaborative change, yet Canadian policy makers still seem to struggle with the potential. Just like Rob Baker demonstrated no apprehension in standing out in a room full of political elites in order to help formulate policies that mattered to him, our elected leaders should be just as fearless by wading into a digital generation that views the world more openly. Rob, if you ever do decide to run for city council in Kingston, Ontario -I’m definitely signing up as a volunteer to help out.
Last Friday in my flight back to Washington after three days of extensive meetings with ICT policy and industry leaders in Chile I was wondering about which were Chile’s ingredients of success that have facilitated Chile’s tremendous progress on ICT. The reasons are probably found on Chile’s current attitude to ICT and the Government’s recognition on its importance to increase economic welfare. Even though Chile is leading the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Information Technology Report’s (GITR) Networked Readiness Index (NRI) in Latin America and has registered significant improvement during the last years, Chile continues challenging its industry and policy leaders to keep the momentum going, make the necessary investment decisions, and implement vital policy reforms needed to accelerate its transformation to the information economy and bring broadband to all sectors of the economy.I see three fundamental elements that have make Chile so successful. First; the government is focused. The importance of ICT has been internalized across the Government and the different government agencies are working together with a unified agenda. The structure of Chile’s Digital Strategy is just one example of this cohesion. Second; Government, Academia, and Industry are working together in a strong Public Private Partnership (PPP). There is a great level of dialogue and commitment from an outstanding leadership at all fronts. Third; Chile is working on different dimensions. Chile’s Digital Plan acknowledges that to achieve its ICT goals the country has not only to invest in infrastructure but also on its ecosystem for ICT with a particular interest in Education. All these elements together are creating irreversible momentum for Chile’s transformation to the information economy and thus, creating the platform that will facilitate improvements in productivity, investment, jobs, and innovation, as well as social advancement.
With the recent FCC ruling on elements of Net Neutrality, the dog days of summer are witnesses to yet another chapter unfolding in this ongoing debate. Proponents of both sides will end up dissecting the FCC’s final decision line by line, deciding whether this applies to the debate writ large, or is limited to this specific instance. But out on the horizon, storm clouds are forming around a topic that will undoubtedly overshadow the current NN debate. The topic -- privacy. It’s risky making these types of predictions in such a public way -it’s always there for comparison -- but in this case, a straightforward reason exists in forecast this upcoming squall. Simplicity. People get it, politicians of all stripes understand it, and the mainstream media can wrap their heads around it. Whereas the debate on NN is focused on technology and its different permeations necessary to actively manage rapidly expanding networks, the technology side of privacy is quickly negated when viewed through the lens of falsification or theft of one’s own personal information.It’s far from being a new debate but with a spat of recent high-profile data breaches, the general public has rightful expressed concern. Of course with increased concern, legislators could be compelled into refreshing or creating new privacy measures to allay fears over a perceived lack of protection. What needs to be done? Principally, we need to avoid overreaction. Too often, in our haste to plug holes we rush in and unleash a whole host of unintended consequences. Secondly, we need to continually press business to recognize the importance of privacy and the necessity of implementing measures to protect it. And finally, persist with the ongoing education of consumers and how they can manage and protect their privacy. Naturally, some privacy advocates will claim that the measures above glaze over the whole issue of collecting information based on individual’s internet habits. While it is incumbent upon business and government to provide consumers with meaningful and easy accessible information on what’s being collected, unless it’s being used for duplicitous reasons, there are legitimate reasons for doing so. Records are a necessity for doing business; create an ability to provide increased customer satisfaction levels, and even create worlds of experiences and opportunities that might otherwise remain unexposed or uncreated. It will be healthy to have this debate over the possibilities and potential concerns of privacy, albeit without fear mongering. Openness to what the possibilities can entail, will continue to aid the net’s evolution. On the bright side -and at risk of being flamed for saying so -- with legislative and regulatory officials turning their focus towards privacy, the whole NN debate might finally be recognized for what it truly is. A non-issue which will eventually be recognized as a mere snap shot in time of the net’s evolution.
The debate about next generation access networks in the UK continues to develop apace. This week, the Broadband Stakeholders Group held a conference on next generation access called ‘Beyond Pipe Dreams’.Two interesting new reports were published at the conference which are relevant for considerations of investment in new access networks more generally.The first report looks at how we can evaluate the economic and social value of a next generation network. While the second report looks at models for public sector intervention in next generation broadband.The discussion at the conference placed as much emphasis on the potential quality of next generation broadband packages as on their raw speed. Characteristics such as symmetry, low latency, predictability etc. were seen to be essential for developing innovative services which could be delivered over broadband. This is an interesting evolution of the debate taking us beyond the simpler numerical modelling of bandwidth requirements that has done before to try and define the demand for better access networks.