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Vice President Al Gore Remarks Prepared for Delivery G-7 Ministerial Conference Brussels, Belgium Fe
From: David Farber <>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 1995 22:21:13 -0500
Vice President Al Gore Remarks Prepared for Delivery G-7 Ministerial
Conference Brussels, Belgium February 25, 1995
My friend, James Burke, the historian, tells a compelling tale about
the last information revolution and the changes it wrought.
Over five hundred years ago, not far from here in Germany, a goldsmith
who had bungled a sure-fire money-making venture by getting a crucial
date wrong, was looking for a way to mollify his business partners. He
decided to use his goldsmithing skills to mold what became known as
movable type and to use the type in his new printing press to print
the one book he knew would sell--the Bible. In this case, the
Now, inventions rarely spring full-blown from one brain, totally
without precedent. Gutenberg's invention is no exception.
After all, movable metal type had been invented in Korea two hundred
years earlier. But conditions conspired to keep that first movable
typeface from spreading. Confucianism prohibited the commercialization
of books and the Korean royal presses would print only classical
Chinese literature, not the more popular Korean literature.
By Gutenberg's time, there were better conditions: better paper,
better metals and eyeglasses. And Europeans were ready for a cheaper
way to copy books than using scribes who charged for one copy what a
printing press would charge for a thousand.
The result: not only books, but enlightenment; the scientific
revolution; the Age of Reason and the political revolution symbolized
by the document I am sworn to uphold some 200 years after its
drafting--the Constitution of the United States.
All, in a way, from a goldsmith's mistake.
What lessons can we draw from Gutenberg's spectacular success? Let me
First, our view of the future and our ability to exploit and develop a
new idea are always constrained by the circumstances we find ourselves
in at the moment. Yes, Gutenberg had a great idea. But he is given
credit for revolutionizing our culture because he exploited his new
idea at a mount when the circumstances were conducive to the rapid
spread of print technology.
Second, change is incredibly hard to handle, manage and predict--or,
as the physicist Neils Bohr once said, "Prediction is very difficult,
especially when you are talking about the future."
We gather here today to chart a path to the future--at a time when
prediction is as difficult as ever, but also at a time when our
circumstances are clearly conducive to the rapid spread of a new
capacity to process and communicate information that will benefit all
humankind. It is a path that will take us from our shared vision to a
new reality. Just as human beings once dreamed of steam ships,
railroads, and superhighways we now dream of the global information
infrastructure that can lead to a global information society.
But our dream today is not fundamentally about technology. Technology
is a means to an end. Our dream is about communication--the most basic
human strategy we use to raise our children, to educate, to heal, to
empower and to liberate. In its most basic form, communication is the
transfer of information from one human being to another. Information,
in turn, is the raw material of knowledge, and knowledge sometimes, if
we're lucky, ferments into wisdom. And of course, in all of our
countries it is by now a clich&e_acute;i to note that the information
revolution now in its early stages will ultimately transform our
concepts of both communication and information.
The changes wrought by Gutenberg are our common heritage. The changes
we are here to discuss will become our common legacy. Today I would
like to outline some principles that the Administration of President
Bill Clinton believes ought to determine the kind of legacy we leave.
Last year in Buenos Aires I attended the first World
Telecommunications Development Conference to present the United
States' vision of a Global Information Infrastructure that will
promote robust and sustainable economic progress, strengthen
democracies, facilitate better solutions to global environmental
challenges, improve health care and, ultimately create a greater sense
of shared stewardship of our small planet.
The Buenos Aires Conference adopted a set of basic principles we
believe are the building blocks of the GII: Private investment,
competition, open access, universal service, flexible regulations.
These principles have been central to the discussions about the GII in
bi-lateral, multi-lateral and regional fora, most recently at the APEC
meeting last week in Vancouver, but also at the Summit of the Americas
meeting in Miami last December and in memoranda of understanding
between the United States and both Russia and Ukraine.
They will be central here in Brussels, at this meeting, proposed by
President Clinton, and graciously hosted by the European Union under
the leadership of President Santer and former President Jacques
Delors. For the first time, more than forty representatives of the
private sector are formally participating in this conference. They and
the hundreds more who are participating informally are demonstrating
at this conference an impressive array of applications that signal to
the world that the G-7 nations are committed to leading the
development of a GII by their example in word and deed.
The very act of holding this conference is in keeping with the advice
given to dreamers long ago by Mahatma Gandi: "You must become the
change you wish to see in the world."
Moreover, moving forward aggressively on a GII is the best way to deal
with concerns highlighted during the G-7 jobs summit in Detroit last
year. At that conference we confronted the central dilemma facing
every government: how do we make sure our economies provide enough
The initial OECD jobs study outlined the connection between jobs and
what we do here. Those nations best able to adopt the new technologies
for a knowledge-based economy have been the best at creating jobs. The
fact is that government policies based on faulty assumptions that try
to block change or protect the status quo have themselves become job
destroyers. This time we have a chance to get it right. We can open
markets to create job opportunities. We can use education and training
to enable more workers to adapt to the new workplace.
The liberating effects of these new technologies have been clear
around the world. Satellite stations brought medical advice to those
tending to the suffering in Rwanda. Radio and TV broadcasts in South
Africa promoted the role of voting in a democracy. Wireless
technologies are allowing emerging nations to leapfrog the expensive
stages of wiring a communication network--for example, in Thailand,
where the ratio of cellular telephone users to the population is twice
that of the U.S.
The effects are also visible in education. One of the biggest
handicaps for those who want to learn has been distance. In
Washington, the Library of Congress is a wonderful place. But we must
ensure it become a tool for, let's say, a schoolgirl from my hometown
in Carthage, Tennessee, 600 miles away.
Already, distance education is helping some citizens overcome
geographic difficulties. In Japan, over 100 institutions are linked by
computer and satellite, with some 150,00 students currently enrolled.
In India, there are five open universities and more than 35 distance
learning programs in conventional universities. And in Canada, the
Knowledge Network delivers courses to adult students living on islands
in British Columbia. In France, the newly-discovered cave paintings in
Ardeche, almost impossible to reach in real life, are accessible on
the Internet to scholars, teachers, and most important, children.
The Clinton Administration is committed to the goal of connecting
every classroom, every library, every hospital and every clinic to the
national and global information infrastructures by the end of this
decade. We must provide our teachers and our students with the same
level of communications technology that shipping clerks, construction
workers and government officials use every day.
Information technology is a critical element of economic policy. But
there are great obstacles. How do we begin the hard work of turning
the obstacles before us into opportunities.
First, by focusing squarely on those who will drive the demand for
information products and services: the users. User demand will define
the marketplace. Competition to serve the users will speed up
innovation and cost-effective deployment of new technologies. Private
investment in diverse technologies will mean new sources of capital
and expertise for rich and poor nations alike. Computer networks have
created new, rapidly growing markets. These networks help small and
medium sized enterprises from both poor and rich countries to become
more effective competitors in world markets.
In the United States, our spectrum auctions have speeded up the
licensing of personal communication services and are leading to the
creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next several
years--one indication that communication is a source of economic
change and growth, not just the result of it..
The GII will not be created in one place at one time by any one group.
It will be the product of cooperation among governments, industry and
citizens on a global scale. But how do countries with widely varying
needs, cultures, and technologies cooperate?
First, by acknowledging that the fruits of our cooperation should be
open access to markets for all providers and users of creative content
and information products, equipment and services. For the competitors
in the 21st century global economy, there is no substitute for being
in the marketplace and providing the users we represent the greatest
variety of products, information and services for the least cost.
Second, building the GII is going to require robust competition. And
you cannot create robust competition by excluding competitors, whether
those competitors are at home or abroad. It is vigorous
competition--which means global competition--that creates jobs.
And so I say on behalf of President Clinton, let the message of this
conference be clear: we support competition in open markets that
allows any company to provide any service to any customer.
What concrete actions must we take to realize that goal?
First, we must drop our barriers to foreign investment together. For
more than 60 years the U.S. has had limited restrictions on foreign
investment in certain telecommunication services. In this respect, we
are going to change and change this year. Whether by new law or new
regulation, we intend to open foreign investment in telecommunications
services in the United States for companies of all countries who have
opened their own markets.
But we also recognize that the information society demands more than a
piecemeal approach. The governments represented here and others have
an historic opportunity to open telecommunications markets around the
world in the negotiations within the General Agreement on Trade in
Services. The deadline for these negotiations is April 1996.
Let us resolve to meet this deadline to remove our investment barriers
Second, let's develop and enforce effective intellectual property
rights for the GII. If our content providers are not protected, there
will not be content to fill the networks and give value to services.
Third, all parties should participate in the development of
private-sector, voluntary, consensus standards through the existing
international organizations, such as the International
Telecommunications Union, the International Standards Organization and
the Internet Society. The creation of truly global networks will
require a high degree of interconnection and interoperability.
Governments are not the best arbiters of technology, and government
intervention risks encouraging adoption of standards that are either
ultimately inferior or inappropriate to demands of the market.
Our vision of an information society is one in which the most valuable
resource--information--is also the most abundant. My hope is that the
open exchange of ideas of all sorts and the greatest access possible
for all citizens to the varied means of communication will stimulate
Global communication is not about conformity. Some fear that in losing
the distance between ourselves and others we lose our distinctions as
well. But communication is about bridging the differences between
nations and people, not erasing them.
It is about protecting and enlarging freedom of expression for all our
citizens and giving individual citizens the power to create the
information they need and want from the abundant flow of data they
encounter moment to moment.
Communication is the beginning of community. Whether it is through
language, art, custom, or political philosophy, people and nations
identify themselves through communication of experience and values. A
global information network will create new communities and strengthen
existing ones by enriching the ways in which we do and can
Ideas should not be checked at the border. We have much to learn from
each other and we should follow practices and policies that
incorporate, not exclude, the greatest diversity of opinions and
expressions. We all gain from the exchange of cultural viewpoints and
experiences that occurs when open minds engage each other.
At the same time, users of the GII want and will demand privacy. When
you ask Americans about information technology, it is their biggest
concern. We must protect the privacy of personal data and
Governments and industry need to work together to develop new
technologies, new standards, and new policies that will provide the
necessary security and privacy protection.
Of course, in order to protect privacy and financial transactions and
enforce intellectual property rights, the GII must be secure and
reliable. The OECD should continue its leadership in the area of
Fortunately, technology and human imagination keep providing us with
new opportunities to enhance our communications capabilities. Take,
for example, non-geostationary satellites. They hold remarkable
potential, especially for remote or thinly-populated regions, and for
societies eager to reap the benefits of 21st century technology even
before completing expensive land-based networks. These advanced
technologies can provide everything from basic telephone calls to
remote medical diagnosis. Like the Internet, they have the potential
to knit together millions of people in different locations and
situations--and do it economically.
Every one of the low earth orbit satellite systems--and, in addition,
the intermediate-orbit Inmarsat-P affiliate--is multinational, and
each satellite consortium welcomes and actively seeks out the
participation of both developed and developing countries. Of course,
each nation retains the power to determine whether the LEOs may serve
it. But countries that license these international satellite consortia
help their business communities become more competitive in the global
economy and provide their citizens beneficial satellite services.
Our purpose in meeting together is to advance our common goal of a
Global Information Infrastructure that will bring to all countries the
benefits of a Global Information Society. Our challenge today is to
create the commercial, technical, legal and social conditions that
will establish the foundation for the GII.
As we work across our common boundaries and oceans to build a GII, we
cannot think only of today's debates about wireless or satellites; we
must perform our work in the service of a global vision that can be
realized in every community and village of the world.
I began by talking about Gutenberg, whose voyage of discovery has
influenced the lives of every person on this planet. His was not an
easy voyage. There were skeptics and enemies; when his financial
backer took twelve Bibles to Paris the book dealers took him to court,
arguing that so many identical books could only be the work of the
His work challenged his society to change. And they learned what we
cannot ignore: that we cannot choose to delay or deny the future; we
must be ready for it.
There is no better way to prepare for the future than to make the best
of the present.
That is why a shared vision is so necessary. We have now a great
opportunity to see the world in a new light and to re-think the way it
operates and the way in which we should operate with it.
I have outlined today the concrete steps we must take to embark on
this new voyage of discovery. Empowered by the movable type of the
next millennium we can send caravans loaded with the wealth of human
knowledge and creativity along trails of light that lead to every home
and village. I thank you for your devotion to this vision and look
forward to our journey together.
- Vice President Al Gore Remarks Prepared for Delivery G-7 Ministerial Conference Brussels, Belgium Fe David Farber (Feb 27)