Vint Cerf, Internet guru and MCI Worldcom’s senior vice president for Internet architecture and technology, said in an interview with internetnews.com that the key to developing the Internet in Asia, as with any other region, is to promote private investment.
“Almost anywhere in the world, liberalized and competitive markets have the most growth,” said Cerf while visiting Hong Kong. “In the absence of that, you get a reduced rate of development or [you are] constrained by what government pays for it.”
Cerf pointed out that a skilled work force and technology awareness are also very important.
Cerf is widely known as a “Father of the Internet” for co-designing the architecture and the basic communication protocols, TCP/IP, that gave birth to the Internet.
In December 1997, he and his partner, Robert Kahn, were presented with the U.S National Medal of Technology for their work towards establishing and developing the Internet.
One reason that Cerf made the trip to Asia was to attend the China Internet Conference and Exhibition in Beijing last week. However, he cancelled his visit to mainland China due to a U.S. State Department advisory calling on Americans to avoid unnecessary travel to China. The advisory was issued during demonstrations in China against the U.S. bombing of its Belgrade embassy.
Cerf indicated to internetnews.com that he would still like to visit Beijing at a later date.
In regard to MCI Worldcom’s business plan for Asia, the Internet guru said
“our normal business model is to own and operate our own infrastructure; we do that to control quality and keep costs down.”
“We can’t do that everywhere in the world,” he admitted. “In Hong Kong, because we can’t have our own facilities, we have to go through third parties.”
“We have certainly made it evident that we want to have our own facilities,” added Cerf. “We’d be pleased if it happened earlier but it’s not going to stop us from providing service.”
In Hong Kong, there are currently four local fixed telecommunications network providers, Hongkong Telecom, Hutchison Communications Ltd., New T & T Hong Kong Ltd., and New World Telephone Ltd.
The Hong Kong government has issued a moratorium on additional Fixed Telecommunication Network Services (FTNS) Licensees until 2003.
Cerf said that striving to be the information technology hub may not be the most important goal for Asians cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.
“My concern, you might be missing an opportunity (concentrating on forming an IT hub),” said Cerf. “I would argue that you would have to look at value added services on the Web.”
In house services like clearing houses, accounts payable, supply chain management could be outsourced to the Internet developing virtual corporations providing services at better value.
Moreover, Cerf said that Asian countries should collectively work on improving regional Internet connectivity.
MCI Worldcom’s Internet technologist describe how Asia’s greatest potential was in the size of the regions population but improvement’s in infrastructure and management would be needed to harness this asset.
To Cerf, what is particularly stunning is the fact that the Indian middle class is more populous than the entire US population.
“[However,] it’s more than just putting in fiber optics,” said Cerf, explaining that networks also need to be managed properly.
“It’s plain that the Japanese have woken up to technology and Australia has long since woken up,” added Cerf.
The Net founder explained that a tell-tale sign for the possibility of Internet growth in a developing market is a significant growth curve for the use of the fax. He indicated that 50 percent of switch calls across the Pacific are facsimile calls.