WCIT2000 - Asia ready for web economy, Cisco CEO says

Cisco Systems president and chief executive officer John Chambers here on Tuesday applauded Asian countries' grasp of the importance of the Internet, in an address to the World Congress on Information Technology.

Taiwan and other Asian countries, including mainland China, recognise the need for investment in education, IT industries and Internet infrastructure to foster future competitiveness, Chambers said.

Chambers charted for the international audience of business, government and academic leaders at this week's conference a future in which the Internet will bring rapid changes and leave behind governments and companies that don't keep up.

Converged networks that bring together voice, video and data will allow for new applications that dramatically increase productivity, fueling growth in gross national products, he said.

"Regardless where you are in the world, you'll be measured by how effective you are in using this technology," Chambers said.

"There's no reason that if you can grow your productivity at five, six, or seven percent that you can't have economic growth at the same rate," he added.

Companies in Asia can best compete globally by participating in business "ecosystems," in which companies cooperate using open standards, Chambers added.

"Companies who really grow and lead the global economy will be ones that know how to ally with other companies around the world," he said during a question-and-answer session following the address. Many companies in Taiwan understand this, he added.

Cisco, which has rapidly acquired companies over the past several years, is taking a global perspective in its own expansion plans, Chambers added.

"You'll probably see us do more than half our acquisitions outside the US in the future," he said.

Current estimates of the growth of Internet commerce in Asia, such as an International Data Corp. estimate that revenue (excluding Japan) will total $US51 billion by 2003, probably underestimate the market, Chambers said. E-commerce in Asia will follow a "hockey stick" pattern, dramatically shooting upward after a critical mass is reached, he predicted.

Nevertheless, Chambers said the full potential of the Internet goes far beyond e-commerce, citing Cisco's own corporate experience.

"While e-commerce gets all the publicity, it was only a 60 percent increase in productivity," Chambers said. The full range of uses of the Internet at Cisco has provided a much bigger benefit, he said.

Online education, both in corporations and later in schools, will have the biggest impact, helping to eliminate the gap between developed and developing countries, Chambers said.

"It will be the next killer app on the Internet," Chambers said in answer to a question after the address.

Before Internet-based education can be widely offered, however, available bandwidth must be increased, he added. "It's a bandwidth hog," he said.

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