SAN MATEO (07/24/2000) - Everywhere you go in this red-hot economy, people are complaining about the same thing: They just can't find enough qualified people to drive their e-business initiatives. Now the truth of the matter is that most companies take a very passive approach to recruiting people, often only putting a classified advertisement in the local newspaper. In fact, senior management is more often than not pleased to see a position stay open for an extended period of time to help balance the budget.
But with just about every segment of the economy dealing with a shortage of human capital, the time has come to take a larger-scale approach to the problem. And for once, the government might actually play a leading role in laying a new foundation for the digital economy.
What's really required is the ability to optimize our collective workforce assets via a national broadband infrastructure, to be closely followed by the creation of an international broadband infrastructure.
Once such a network exists, with equal access for everyone, more people would discover that their jobs can be location-independent. That means everybody working in the accounting department or in customer service does not have to live within a 100-mile radius of the company.
Instead, companies could truly evolve into virtual organizations using tools such as video conferencing so average workers, not just executives, could live where they chose without having to factor in drive time to the office.
This would not only increase the available pool of talent to companies that seek to hire people; it would also mean that more people could afford to buy houses because demand for housing would become less concentrated in major urban areas.
Today the big thing holding back the development of the economy is lack of broadband to the home, which is expensive to deploy.
Now, usually we like to rely on free market principles to drive the adoption of technology, but once in awhile an important infrastructure does emerge that requires government support.
Take, for instance, the interstate highway system that was developed under the auspices of the Eisenhower administration.
Without this investment by the government, the growth of the U.S. economy would have been severely hampered over the past four decades.
As we enter the era of the digital economy, the same issue now applies to broadband networks, which essentially are the interstate highway systems of the Internet with off-ramps into everybody's home.
This type of investment would do a lot more toward insuring peace and security worldwide than any missile system or trade pact could ever hope to accomplish.
In fact, rather than watching their best and brightest people emigrate overseas in pursuit of higher education, universities could make their courses available on a global basis. This means more people could stay in the countries they love while their ideas and concepts travel over the globe.
In the United States, both Al Gore and George W. Bush have been struggling to find some meaningful campaign issue to excite the electorate.
What people always care most about is the economy and the ability to provide education for the children.
So the time has definitely come for these political leaders to truly become technology-literate and to formulate an economic vision for this country and the rest of the world in keeping with the technological breakthroughs of this new century.
After all, nothing is more strategic to the interests of the average citizen of the world than making sure that they and everybody else has access to the best economic and educational infrastructure possible.
Got another point of view? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld.