CeBIT 98: Gerstner Keynote P3 - Responsibility

Here are some of the highlights from Gerstner's speech.

I started out this evening saying I hoped to represent the voice of the customer. And as we project the benefits of this networked world to hundreds of millions, even a billion people, it's clear that the information technology industry has a lot of work to do:

We've got to make the technology easier to use, more natural.

We've got to reach agreement on standards for communications, security, software development. And I'm asking you, as customers, to keep the heat on all the companies in this industry. Demand that we deliver open standards: Everybody's software, running on everybody's hardware, over everybody's network.

There's another set of issues that extend beyond the information technology industry: public policy issues. Some have been around forever, like privacy. Some, we recognise as old issues with new dimensions, like security, or taxation in the global marketplace of the Internet. Resolving these issues is going to require a new level of International cooperation.

I think the nations of the European Union have set a real leadership example here in preparing for the common currency, perhaps the most important change since European integration and the Treaty of Rome.

Because the new world of networked transactions is by its very nature global, agreement on the critical policy issues will take this issue of cooperation to a new level, global public policy.

First, people must have inexpensive access to the telecommunications services they need to participate, meaning governments have to encourage competition, and end monopoly structures. The news from across Europe is starting to be encouraging here.

It's equally clear that discriminatory tax policy can stifle this nascent market economic engine. We have to ensure that electronic business is taxed the same way as physical business, no more, and no less.

Next, security: The demand of customers for strong encryption, and governments' legitimate concerns about their ability to provide public safety and enforce laws, don't have to be mutually exclusive. IBM is working with the U.S. government, with the European Union and governments around the world to support an unrestricted market for encryption products that interoperate globally. We're not as far along on this as we need to be, but I'm confident we'll get there. We have to. There's too much at stake.

Finally, privacy. How can we continue to strike the right balance between respect for individual privacy and the benefits, on the other hand, of information flow in a connected world? I think the solution has to start with the private sector, not government and a reaffirmation of a few proven principles by all businesses: that consumers get fair notice of how information about them is used, with an opportunity to control and confirm its use.

With global agreement, cooperation and understanding, the information industry, government, and our customers will be able to go forward and ensure the global electronic marketplace grows boldly, safely, securely, and delivers the real promise of a networked world.

As we look ahead to the next millennium, I don't think there's any longer a question about the profound power of this technology. We're watching the emergence of something much bigger than a new model of computing or even a new channel for human interaction. Information technology, and specifically networked technology, represents the most powerful tool we've ever had for change: It is a new engine for real economic growth, a new medium that will redefine the nature of relationships among governments, among institutions and businesses of all kinds and the people they serve now, and might serve tomorrow. This powerful tool is here for all of us today. Each of us will have to decide how we'll exploit it and how soon. In any case, the nations, government agencies, public sector and commercial institutions that do this most effectively will create enormous competitive advantage into the 21st Century.

Thank you very much, and I hope you have the most successful CeBIT ever.