Economic and technological forces are bringing the information industry to a crossroads, IBM executive vice-presidnet Kap Cassani claimed at Telecom ’87 in Geneva this week, suggesting that there was a need to take a fresh look at traditional telecommunications concepts and update them in light of convergent technologies and global market requirements. The globalisation of world markets and the continuing growth of international trade has set the world on a course of irreversible interdependence, he said. This march towards interdependence – with all its opportunities – is both good news and a great challenge for the information in-dustry, Cassani stated, clearly unaware that Wall Street was going into free fall almost as he spoke.
Our industry is at once a leading participant in the global market, and a major force in creating it, he declared, as the messages from the New York Stock Exchange computers caused the London market to abort its midday recovery and plunge vertigin-ously back down again. Side-by-side with the economic interdependence among nations is a technological interdependence, said Cassani. He cited examples of traditional concepts to be re-examined: With increased digitisation of the network infrastructure, and particularly with the advent of ISDN, distinctions between voice and data, or other forms of information, become irrelevant. With thepotential for increased intelligence in telecommunications networks, the boundary between telecommunications and data processing services becomes increasingly difficult to identify. And with the need to exchange information with the world outside one’s own company, attempts to set rigid boundaries between ‘own use’ and ‘third-party use’ of those networks is ultimately a disservice to the public. Cassani also stressed the basic need of all users, worldwide, for unfettered access to the essentialtelecommunications infrastructure at non-discriminatory, cost-based tariffs, and the freedom to select the services, and service-providers, of theirchoice. (Try telling that to Germany’s Bundespost, Mr Cassani). But he added that it would be inappropriate to try to force-fit the model of any particular country to different environments. Every country is unique, he said, with its own laws, traditions, and realities, and no single model is best suited to all of these patterns. By degrees, countries around the world are answering the cries of the marketplace for increased openness, in the way best suited to their national requirements. As for IBM, according to Cassani, it supports the proposals of the Commission of the European Communities which fully recognise the vital role of telecommunications in completing the European Common Market and achieving European economic goals. It supports the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade but in order to advance globalcommunications, it believes the GATT protocols need to be extended to cover trade in services, and we look forward to the Uruguay Round to achieve this objective – see background CI Nos 760, 774). IBM is also fully committed to connectivity. In clo-sing, Cassani challenged the conference attendees to take the evolving technology of telecommunications, harness it to the needs of industry, and lib-erate it for a new age of freedom and enterprise.
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