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International Forum on Multimedia - brief/rough notes (from an IPer)
From: Dave Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Wed, 31 May 1995 18:32:32 +0900

"The International Forum on Multimedia - Toward a Multimedia Society in the
21st Century: Asia and the World", Thursday (May 25), Takanawa Prince
Hotel, Tokyo.

I only caught little over half of the afternoon session, some rough notes
follow, editorial type comments in [...]


I arrived towards the end of Mike Nelson's presentation, as I sat down he
was talking about network commerce on the GII and some of the challenges
and implications:  taxes and customs duties, how are they to be paid on
"goods" traveling over the global network?

The administration do not want network owners to control content and
restrict access to information.  Important point for Gore.  They want to
avoid a repeat of the cable TV situation in the US where operators decide
what programming is available.

Importance of 2 way networks. Said he'd seen some wonderful systems, really
great potential, but they were all gigabit's in and only a few K back for
the remote control to change channels or send the "buy" command.  The
administration believes in the two-way nature of the network, the balance
of in and back channels.

Competition in communications:  the goal is an industry as open and
competitive as today's computer industry.  Working with Congress now to try
and ensure that this level of competition is introduced to the
communications industry.

Evolution of the information superhighway, from the arrival of computers
(20 years ago), getting them connected over networks (the last ten years),
communities developing on those networks (in the last few years, first
academics, then peer groups and business), and the most recent stage is

Though I missed most of this session, seemed like a very up-beat presentation.

"Toward a new framework for International Cooperation".  Panel discussion.
Chairman:  Tekemochi Ishii, Keio University, Environmental Information.
George Yeo, Singapore, Minister for Information & Arts & Health [censorship
comes under his ministry]
Lee Yong Kyung, Korea Telecom, VP for R&D
Mike Nelson, US.
Jack Matthey, Member of the cabinet of Edith Cresson [EU commissioner for
information technology - I think]
Akemi Yamaguchi, Communications Policy Bureau, MPT, Japan
Person from Thailand's telco.

Yeo began.  [I was told by a friend who'd attended Yeo's main presentation
earlier in the day that he'd made a few general comments against US info
policy/the US in general.  Example, Yeo compared the reaction of Japanese
and US societies to recent earthquakes.  After Kobe, the Japanese
government just got on with the job of re-building.  After the LA
earthquake, the US people looted.  He seemed to direct many of his comments
during the panel at Mike Nelson.]

One of the goals of the IT2000 plan was to position Singapore as the
information hub for Asia.  Singapore could not take a wait and see role, to
continue as a trading nation they must embrace information technology
quickly.  Yeo talked about the influence information technology would have
on morals/ethics/culture.  How Singapore was opening its society, but was
aware that information would bring good and evil.  The good has been hyped
and received most attention, but we must be conscious of the evil that can
also be caused.  Some societies will be irrevocably changed so we must
prepare.  [Yeo did not mention any specific examples of what he thought
"evil" was.]   Gave an example of keeping one channel from the local cable
broadcaster for very local programs, perhaps a channel where parents could
select between various cameras showing the local playground, parking lot,
surrounding open spaces, etc., so they'd be able to keep an eye on their
children, check that things are safe.

Information technology could also help strengthen local communities as well
as bring great globalization.  Using the technology within the school,
church/temple, club and company to bring people closer, bonding them more
strongly to each other and those community organizations.

The panelist replaced the Thai communications minister.

Far less developed than other countries represented.  In rural Thailand
introducing information technology means providing a telephone to every
home, one that works 24 hours/day, 365 days/year.  In the cities and
developed regions (Bangkok/Phuket), people have a reliable telephone
service and are beginning to demand networks to plug their computers into.

Spoke of Buddhism and the basic human needs.  Not possible to leave out the
undesirable elements that new technology would bring, but work minimize the
effects of the bad.

Korea Telecom to be privatized over the next 3 years.  They have the basic
network infrastructure and must now provide wireless and multimedia.
Called Karoke the first true multimedia product - voice, video, text,
interactivity.  Noted that multimedia is different from many other markets
in that products anything less than perfect will not be tolerated by
consumers, e.g. a voice recognition system that only functioned with 90%
success is not useful.  Greater challenge to produce multimedia products.

Asia generally lagged behind in the industrial revolution, the information
revolution offers Asian countries a chance to jump on at the beginning.
Korea has a strong potential role in the future sitting between Japan,
China and Russia, geographical location and historical.

Mike Nelson.  Message:
1.  deregulation and liberalization
2.  GII is Global (not G7-GII)
3.  Steps to stimulate markets, stimulate growth of GII

Follow the example of New Zealand.  From one of the worst OECD rated
countries for telecommunications (cost, available services, quality of
service, etc.) to the best in 5 years.  The result of liberalizing the
market, allowing competition.  Prices down 50% in 5 years.  Sweden, UK, and
parts of the US have all seen rapid growth after liberalization.  Nelson's
message for all nations was deregulate and open markets.

The Brussels G7 meeting on GII was not just addressing the interests of the
G7 nations [strong agreement from EU and Japanese panelists].  11 key
application areas proposed and these were global projects.

Mentioned Carl Malamud's Internet World Fair as an example of how developed
nations can help undeveloped get up to speed.  World-wide communications
alliances were also very important.

GII will bring better jobs, better lives, richer cultural experience.  Not
homogeneous culture, but better access to all cultures of the world.

Matthey.  Information society is about communication, cooperation and

Communication technologies get customized, uses are often different from
those first expected.  There's a proliferation of satellite dishes in
Brussels, not among the wealthier groups as marketers thought, but
immigrant populations - 80% of dishes owned by immigrant pop.  People from
North Africa looking for programming that provides a link to their own
culture.  The reverse is true in North Africa, people using satellite to
get French programming.

Cooperation - G7 GII projects are about cooperation.  Real, tangible
projects which will gain more value as more countries join.

Integration.  East European countries are poised to join the EU, but there
are gaps in levels of development and culture.  Info Society will help
bridge the gaps.

Government must be involved, providing common rules at an international
level, fair rules for competition and intellectual property.  Public
authorities are necessary to ensure universal access.

Yamaguchi, MPT.  Talked about possible market size, the various studies
underway, committees formed, etc.  Government working on guidelines to be
implemented by business.

GII is not for G7 alone, Kyoto ITU conference attended by ministerial
representatives of 50 countries and the Kyoto ITU declaration was adopted
by the G7.  Access for all must be guaranteed.  Regional and global level
cooperation must be strengthened.  Need to respect and protect cultural and
linguistic diversity, and security and intellectual property.

General comments from the panel.

ITU's "Missing Link" document still applies to the world of communication,
in fact the gap between haves and have-nots may be widening.  So hopes to
see assistance, knowledge and technology from developed countries.

TWO crucial steps for Asian countries.
1.  Bring competition to the telecommunications sector.  Full competition
will allow information infrastructure to develop, and develop quickly.
2.  Content.  Even if the information highway is built, it will not be used
unless content is protected.  Strengthening intellectual property law is
vitally important.  If creators are not protected, then local content
creators will not emerge.  A society with weak IP will always be second in
line, waiting for the copy.  India is a good example, strengthened IP laws
have lead to amazing growth in software development sector.

"How will my life be improved?"  Happy now to relax reading one newspaper
while drinking a cup of coffee, likes to play an occasional round of golf.
With computers and information coming from everywhere, how will I have time
for anything else?

Some Malaysian and Singaporean schools have begun teaching the Japanese
abacus again.  Found that students with pocket calculators could not do
simple maths, too easy with the calculator, never learnt the hard way.  The
human being can't be spoon-fed everything, and new technology may tend to
do just that.  We cannot become sluggish because of new technology.
[He spoke like this for a while, they were the only comments from the panel
to receive applause.]

This technology will give more free time, jobs that now take hours can be
completed in much less.  Info Technology would give us our lives back.
Noted the big decline in the US of traditional social sports such as league
bowling, people no longer have time.  Lack of time is in part caused by the
general competitiveness of the economic environment, and part the
transition underway from paper to computer.  Once the transition stage is
passed, more time will be available.

Benefits will be great: in avoiding disputes, saving life, improving life.

We will be given more options by the new media, and the options will be
much less passive than today's.

Gore's information Highway was deeply appreciated in Singapore, but we must
try to temper our basic enthusiasm and prepare also for new problems.

There is discussion in Korea about how the country can benefit from this.
Railroads in Korea were built by colonial powers, good railroads, but they
were designed to meet the colonial power's needs [to carry grain and ores
to ports], not the needs of the Korean people.  If Korea fully connects to
the GII, will the more powerful outside forces of US, EU and Japan culture
decide what form the information infrastructure takes, rather than building
it to fit the needs of Korean culture.

Key to culture is a well educated people.  Asian countries have centuries
of history and culture, education is an answer, isolation will not do.  Non
of us want Hollywood or Hollywood icons (he said Micky, Goofy and Donald
Duck) moving in on our cultural heritage.

Reduce the barriers of entry for those wanting to produce content and new
local content providers will come.  Hollywood's success is based on two
high cost factors, creation and distribution.  New technologies lower
creation costs (example of Bulgarian folk music CD's at the top of the US
music charts - CD produced for a few tens of thousands of dollars) and
distribution in the future on digital networks will be cheap/accessible.
People around the world still prefer local content when it is available,
new technologies will make it available.  Hollywood will also gain from
information technology, but believes others will gain more.

One of the most important features of Information Society is interactivity,
said it was a shame that there is no interaction here between the panel and
audience [at the beginning of the session the Chairman said there would be
no Q&A.]

The chairman followed this remark by asking the panel if they had any
comments on interactivity [haha].


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