CEOs call for more IT cooperation at Tokyo summit

Business leaders from major Japanese and U.S. information technology companies ended a three-day conference in Tokyo on Tuesday with a pledge to work more closely together to help bring about a turnaround in the economic situation in both countries.

The U.S.-Japan Business Conference drew chief and senior executives from major companies in each country and across a range of fields, and featured ICT (information, communication and technology) as one of the main discussion areas. The conference was chaired by Taizo Nishimuro, chairman of Toshiba Corp., and Michael Armstrong, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Corp.

"At the ICT working group, four topics were presented and an exchange of views took place," said Hajime Sasaki, chairman of NEC Corp. and co-chair of the ICT working group, speaking at a news conference at the end of the event. "One is the current status of the information technology business in the U.S. and Japan; second is examples of the innovation of business through ICT. Third was issues related to trade and investment and fourth, broadband, mobile and e-commerce and the current situation and future prospects."

Few further details of the closed-door meetings were available, although the parties issued a pledge to work more closely together with the aim of encouraging productivity gains, the revolution of business and corporate management and sustainable growth in both economies.

"The ICT industries of both countries will, by further strengthening mutual cooperation, develop and implement measures to support the development of infrastructure, applications and service offerings for broadband, mobile services and e-commerce," the participants said in a joint statement issued at the end of the conference.

This broad goal to work more closely together may get some backing, said Sasaki. "In order to strengthen mutual cooperation, there was a discussion to create a small working group between the secretariats of the U.S. and Japan," he said.

The joint statement also noted the importance of the development of applications and services, such as authentication, payment and rights management technologies, to help advance broadband, mobile telecommunication and e-commerce services. In this area, the members stopped short of calling on their respective governments for help in this area -- a contrast with calls made in other areas under discussion such as non-performing loans or foreign direct investment.

"It is the self-help effort of the industry that is of utmost importance," said Sasaki. "Rather than asking for the help of the government, it is the self-help effort that is the right way to go. That was the thrust of our discussions."

While it was one of the three main topics discussed at the conference, ICT issues were more in the background than previous years thanks to the decline in the IT sector and also more pressing problems caused by the general economic uncertainty in both countries. Attendance at the conference by chief executives from U.S.-based IT companies is also down on previous years -- something attributed to the IT slump and the bankruptcy of some companies.

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