Asian leaders plan for high-tech success

Business, political leaders get together for high-level summit in the high-tech capital of the world.

SAN FRANCISCO -- For Asian countries aiming to leap into the high-tech world, money is no longer the problem. The government is.

That's according to business leaders gathering here at the third annual Asia-Pacific Information Technology Summit. The summit is bringing together industrial and political leaders from Asian countries to engage in dialogue about their high-tech directions.

Much is at stake. On Thursday, financial guru William Hambrecht reeled off numbers showing how technology has become the driving force for the U.S. economy, responsible for a 48 percent growth rate in jobs, an 849 percent increase in exports, and a 580 percent jump in tax revenue.

Asian officials recognize the scope of the economic shift that is happening. "We are really talking about a steady evolution of the information technology world in Asia Pacific," said Chong-Moon Lee, vice chairman of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) "And at the same time, we use the term revolution."

Fertilizing the fields
But the high-tech economic revolution doesn't just happen by itself, argued one official.

Bill Miller, former head of the Stanford Research Instutute, told representatives from more than a dozen countries "just as in the case of plants and animals, if you have a favorable habitat, they flourish. If you have an unfavorable habitat, they'll die."

Some Asian governments were offered up as worthy models for the region. Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Korea were praised at the summit for "friendly" government policies. But skepticism dogs China, despite its agreement Monday to open its market to 49 percent foreign ownership of companies.

"(The Chinese) came to this decision simply because of domestic political reasons," said the PECC's Chong. "We need to work with the Chinese to let the rest of the world communicate with the Internet freely."

China's Minister of Technology was at the summit, but refused an interview.

Still, Hambrecht says China does seem to have understood one very important thing, "The Internet is going to be very difficult to contain within borders. It has a viral effect to it. It spreads whether you like it or not."

Apparently, so does the Asian influence. The PECC points out that Asians are behind one out of three Silicon Valley startups. And to develop closer ties between Asia and America's high tech headquarters, the PECC is opening its own office there.