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10/15/2004
03:28 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Business Technology: Looking Ahead: Getting To Know You, Faster

As we look back at the world InformationWeek has covered for the past 25 years, it's also worth a glance into the future to see what the next quarter-century might bring.

But looming in the background of this vast potential, says business-technology guru George Gilder, is the choice this country needs to make about, of all things, capitalism. In a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, Gilder, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, notes that the United States is falling dangerously behind several Asian nations in preparedness for a 21st-century society that warmly embraces technology and in shaping a business climate that is a vigorous advocate for not just current but especially advanced technology. "China today has more Internet connections and its free zones have higher bandwidth than does the U.S. South Korea has 40 times as much communications bandwidth per capita as we do. Japan is also far ahead of us in broadband deployment. India is advancing rapidly, particularly in software, fueled by graduates of its rigorous and competitive school system. Asian countries annually graduate 10 times as many electrical engineers as does the U.S."

But Gilder's point is not that we in this country need to fear those developments, nor that we should seek to somehow try to legislate or litigate away those realities. Rather, he urges, we must resist the notions gaining currency in some parts of the world that free-market capitalism is less about animal spirits than it is about central planning: "At the same time that our rivals have turned sharply toward capitalism and technology, the U.S. intelligentsia is turning toward a technophobic fear of useful chemicals (DDT, PCBs) and fervent opposition to world-leading deployment of technology in the U.S. by such corporations as Wal-Mart and General Electric. In passionate support for the Kyoto treaty, they arouse false fears of global warming (global temperatures today stand just below the average of the last two millennia), and raise the hopes of foreign and U.S. bureaucrats bent on usurping control of U.S. energy usage from our citizens."

This rift, Gilder says, is not merely philosophical--indeed, the outcome will have staggering implications for not just the technology industry and its customers but for the entire economy of the United States: "The U.S. today stands at a crossroads. The key economic issue confronting the next president is whether to embrace the policies of decline and sclerosis that afflict old Europe and have left generations of young people unemployed; or whether to enlist with Asia in the supply-side policies of dynamism and growth that have brought more human beings out of poverty than any other regimes in world history."

While at this stage we can't be sure which path our country will take, we can know with great certainty that the future will bring us massive and relentless change. Technologies will come and go, companies will be created or go out of business, global sources of innovation and excellence will be mined, and business processes will be relentlessly optimized. But one constant will be that excellence will continue to be measured by an individual's or a company's ability to deliver customer-focused innovation and value, but at speeds never before possible; and another will be that, as Prahalad and Krishnan mention above, "Consumers will no longer accept poor quality or unnecessary costs. They want to be involved and manage their own experience." In the technology-pervasive future that's rushing toward us, the contest will be over who is able, whatever their country of origin, to align perfectly in real time with customer desires, and then fulfill not only the desire for the tangible thing but the surrounding experience as well.

And therein lies the promise of which Gilder speaks, and that I believe will be the hallmark of the next 25 years in business technology: enlisting "in the supply-side policies of dynamism and growth that have brought more human beings out of poverty than any other regimes in world history."

Enjoy the journey!

Bob Evans
Editorial Director
bevans@cmp.com


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Bob Evans's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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