TAIPEI (06/14/2000) - Technology is making the world a smaller place, and that has some people, like Taipei Mayor Ying-jeou Ma, running a little scared.
Information technology's ability to foster global markets has the Harvard Law School-educated Ma scrambling to ensure that his city and businesses can compete.
The city has begun offering a free three-hour Internet training course to its residents and hopes to have trained 100,000 people in this city of 2.6 million before too long. Close to three-quarters of the city's population own PCs.
Ma is also working on plans to open some 800 publicly accessible Internet kiosks over the next two years. The city is increasing the number of computers in use in its classrooms, as well as teaching English to earlier grade levels.
"If we cannot accelerate information and communication development, we will lose our competitiveness," said Ma at this week's World Congress on Information Technology, which included some 1,700 people from more than 60 countries.
Ma wants to make his city an attractive location for multinational companies by offering the infrastructure and skilled workforce they need. Taiwan's government is working on countrywide IT development projects under the banner "Green Silicon Island."
Other Asian cities and countries are adopting names and projects to spur IT development: Hong Kong has its "Cyberport," Singapore calls itself the "Intelligent Island," and Malaysia has established the "Multimedia Super Corridor."
Lim Swee Say, minister of state communications in Singapore, said Asian nations have to cooperate "so together we can move towards the vision of an e-Asia, so we are not lagging behind Europe and the USA."
There is also concern about the "digital divide," and Say urged countries in the region to help one another to keep pace. "Global competition will (wait for) no one to catch up," Say said.
The three-day congress concluded today. It will convene again in 2002 in Adelaide, Australia.