Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cambodia and Thai Internet growth according to Cisco

Cisco exec Howard Charney sees the Internet as a key driver for development, especially in the world's most remote places

Howard Charney, a senior vice president of US-based Cisco Systems and a 35-year veteran of Silicon Valley, champions Internet technologies as a means of increasing national competitiveness and innovation.

At a recent information and communications technology expo here, he told his audience that talent, investment and infrastructure were the key pillars of innovation.

"For instance, several obvious ways to foster talent are education, training, access to information, and collaboration.

"Historically, education has always been the route to a better life - and the Internet has the potential to bring education to every person who wants it, no matter where they are or who they are," he said.

However, Net access is still not available in many rural and remote places.

According to recent figures, only 11 to 12 per cent of Thais currently use the Internet, which is still far higher than the ratio in neighbouring Cambodia, where only a third of 1 per cent of its population currently has Net access.

"But, you know - that could change very quickly. I like one example in which a particular string of villages in Cambodia has no electricity and no telephone service - but they do have e-mail.

"They have leapfrogged from zero communications infrastructure to wireless. Several times a week, motorcycles fitted with wireless routers head out into the jungle.

"As the bikes cruise through a village, they exchange messages wirelessly with the school [battery-powered] computers. Back in town, everything gets sent out over the Internet," he said.

In other words, isolated villages in Cambodia, or any other remote location, can now connect more efficiently with the rest of the world.

In the Cambodian example, educators can now improve school curriculum, while the entire community has access to news and medical information, and are also able to check crop prices and contact their government officials electronically.

More importantly, it means all these people now have access to the "big picture", allowing them to take part and compete more efficiently in the local, as well as the global, economy.

In addition, education also has a big multiplier effect. According to one US expert, every dollar spent on education returns five dollars to the economy, while the World Bank has suggested that just one additional year of education for a population could increase a country's GDP by 3 per cent.

Besides education, innovation is nurtured by training, access to information and collaboration.

On collaboration, he said: "Today it is broadband, multimedia and global. It doesn't matter today where you live or work or travel. Thanks to the Internet, you can always find like-minded people with whom to collaborate."

He highlighted the importance of infrastructure by citing a report from Forrester Research which detailed how the productivity gap in the US between companies that have integrated leading technologies and ones that have not have more than doubled.

"If you are 40 per cent less productive than your competitor, maybe you don't know it yet, but you are going out of business.

"In fact, if we compare data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, we see an almost 99-per-cent correlation between IT investment and improvements in productivity. That is not coincidence.

"On commercial Internet technologies, to date there have been three distinct waves. The first was the automation of the back office. The second was the integration of the supply chain. The third - which is where we are now - is consumer-driven replenishment."

"Well, the first two waves map exactly to macroeconomic improvements in productivity. And there is an undeniable correlation between productivity and connectivity.

"When those first desktop computers came out - sure, they were useful. But when they could send information to each other and around the world, they became critical. That is when they became truly productive," he said.

Nophakhun Limsamarnphun

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