Chancellor Schroder to CeBIT: 'No reason for pessimism'

'Now is the time to build,' Chancellor Schroder tells CeBIT. 'There is no reason for pessimism'

"The new economy has matured. Growth has slowed down so, now is the time to build. There is no reason for pessimism," explains chancellor Gerhard Schroder, referring to the current dot-com crisis in his CeBIT opening speech. Each year CeBIT breaks new records and 8,000 exhibitors from 60 countries are expected at this year's show alone.

According to the chancellor, approximately one billion PCs are being used across the world. "Since 1997, the German IT market alone grew by 9 percent. It's obvious that communication and information technology has an important role to play in the new and the old economy."

Joining chancellor Schroder on the platform was Volke Jung, president of the federal organisation for Information, Telecommunication and New Media (Bitkom). He criticised the huge cost for the auction of UMTS licences and the resulting strain inflicted on the IT industry. "I hope that taught us a lesson."

By 2003, the demand for skilled employees is expected to reach 7.5 billion, but the current European training system will only be able to provide for 5.6 billion of these positions, explains Jung. The problem won’t get solved on its own. "Had we been more proactive in developing a training system to provide for the growing demands, we would not have to ask for help from Bulgaria or Russia."

But efforts to address this problem are being made by the chancellor through the growing relationship between the government, economy and trade unions. "In fact, the targeted goal to create 40,000 training centres by 2003 for the IT and Media sector has already been fulfilled," said Schroder. Another 20,000 should be added by the end of next year, amounting to 60,000 in total. Schroder also points out that the search for skilled employees should not only focus on the younger generation. Providing advanced training for older employees should also be an option.

The government’s plan so far is to equip 181 national employment offices with Internet centres. "The federation has set substantial amounts of money aside in order to tackle this IT employment bottleneck."

By 2003, UMTS should be available to 25 percent of the population and 50 percent by 2005, according to the chancellor, provided everyone works together to save infrastructure costs. It is in the end-user's best interest, states Schroder.

Joining chancellor Schroder in addressing CeBIT on the first day of the show was Carly Fiorina, chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. "The market for mobile devices is constantly changing," explains Fiorina. For E-Services to be adopted by more users, these need to be easier to use and more efficient. "Mobile services should be like buying a train ticket or searching for a flight connection."

HP research claims that end-users want small, highly functional, trendy, personalised, easy to handle and extremely efficient devices. "A clever mobile solution is more than just the possibility to put the Internet in your bag. It's above all the use of the Internet as a service provider," said Fiorina.

To boost this service-oriented world, Fiorina supports the need for cultural thinking and a new focus for technology and its business model. "What counts is the experience not the device." she said.

Thanks to ZDNet Germany for this report and to Sophie Handrick for the translation.

German language version of this report available here

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