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At WCIT, a call for government to lead

Technology can make positive contributions to the developing world, but in many cases government will have to take a more active role in putting to best use, speakers at the World Congress on Information Technology said.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

Technology can make positive contributions to the developing world, but in many cases government will have to take a more active role in putting to best use, speakers at the World Congress on Information Technology gathering in Austin, Texas, said. The 2,000 delegates to the Congress come from 80 countries and when the session votes on various proposals, those will have the weight of official recommendations from the body.

In News.com's report on the Congress, the role of government in spreading IT-based benefits cropped up repeatedly.

  • Yeongi Son, president and CEO of the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion, said his government-funded agency has set up access centers in rural areas of the country, and distributed refurbished PCs to the poor.
  • Governments should start using technology themselves, making it a priority to embrace technology within their organizations and introduce public-sector workers to the possibilities of information technology, said Don Tapscott, CEO of a think tank called New Paradigm.
  • Joseph McGrath, CEO of Uniyss, said government can lead in protecting privacy and identify. "Normally the government trails, but this is an opportunity for government to lead," he said. McGrath sees smart cards and RFID as a good thing here.
He pointed out the Malaysian government's embrace of smart cards that store passport data, banking information and health records as a model for how governments can move their citizens forward into the digital age.

Unisys is in favor of government-set international standards for RFID but Michael Capellas, the former CEO of Compaq and MCI, advocated vertical markets create their own market-driven standards.

Another key area is health IT, but here progress has been slow, perhaps because governments have not aggressively moved standards forward.

Karen Bell, acting deputy national coordinator for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said: "The reality is that a good many of the problems have to do with lack of coordination between one system or another." Records kept by one doctor won't necessarily show up in a different doctor's record-keeping system, never mind across different countries.

The Australian government has decided to move ahead in developing its own specifications, said Ian Reinecke, chief executive officer of the National E-Health Transition Authority. "Anybody who waits for the standards bodies before implementing e-health will be waiting a long time," he said.

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