This year's Global Forum met last week in this paradoxically ancient and modern European city, and celebrated technological advance while noting chaotic policy environment conditions.
Called the "Davos of IT" after the prestigious Swiss economic-policy meeting, Global Forum 2008 focused on issues of digital trust and identity, the frantic international race for broadband leadership, and pressures for reregulation in a world enduring economic crisis.
In its 17th year, Global Forum 2008 brought together information and communication technology (ICT) professionals from more than 40 countries. Among the speakers from the United States were FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate and FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch. The presentations ranged from strategic to practical, from industry-centered to public-policy concerns.
Global Forum President and co-founder Sylviane Toporkoff, who's also professor and director of a University of Paris graduate business program, noted that global ICT accounts for 8% of the world's gross domestic product. The core of Global Forum topics today is convergence, not just of new technologies and services but also of access and content, she said.
Repeated issues with digital trust and identity dominated access concerns. One of the most intriguing organizations participating in the forum was the Global Trust Center. This Swedish nongovernmental organization seeks to act as a clearinghouse of digital-identity policy and rights management. It plans a global trusted-identity repository, allowing anonymous "claimed identity" as one possible orientation.
French Senator Pierre Laffitte, originator of the Fondation Sophia Antipolis, a "technopolis" community and industrial complex in the French Riviera, welcomed the delegates as a forum co-sponsor. Laffitte emphasized that promotion of advanced R&D in Europe and elsewhere requires public-private venture-capital networking.
Public-private venturing was the dominant theme marking broadband-development policy. Competitive providers were seen as able to deliver broadband to urban areas worldwide, but services to rural and developing regions will require government interventions in such forms as capital guarantees, municipal networks and technology-uptake education for users.
The Greek government, for example, has embarked on an ambitious plan to provide broadband to Athens, Thessaloniki, and Greece's 50 largest cities. Four million people of a total Greek population of 11 million live in metropolitan Athens.