Human issues must not be overshadowed by too much focus on the new technologies for the Internet and telecommunications services, warned US Assistant Secretary for Communications Larry Irving last week.
Speaking at an annual conference on telecommunications regulation last Saturday, Irving said he was optimistic about the growth of the Internet and of telecommunications, despite the challenges they faced. But he warned that it was important to balance this technological development with consideration for civic values and the human impact.
"These issues are about people - how to harness the promise of telecommunications technologies and use them to communicate better with family, colleagues, and business partners; to revitalise our communities; to improve our children's education; and to enhance the way we receive medical services.As we work out the technical issues, we must keep in focus the human ones," he said.
He highlighted the US government's priorities for the immediate future: pushing forward digital television; address issues of public interest obligations, privacy security, censorship, and intellectual property in the online world.
"As policymakers, I believe that increasingly we will realise that we cannot keep up with technology. Instead, we will be better served by establishing broad frameworks that promote our fundamental principles of competition, private investment, access, and universal service," he said.
Irving noted that the US had the most Internet hosts, with 12 million of the 20 million global total. Japan and the UK had second and third most respectively. He said the US administration would continue to actively push the technology of US companies globally through negotiation and commercial advocacy.
Only through open markets could applications of the technology such as electronic commerce, distance learning, and telecommunications services flourish he warned. He said a recent survey found that the number of people in the US who had bought something over the Internet had increased 50 per cent in just six months to more than 10 million.
"President Clinton's Framework [for Global Electronic Commerce] rests on the fundamental premise that in order to realise the full potential of electronic commerce, governments must adopt a non-regulatory, market-oriented approach to electronic commerce, one that facilitates the emergence of a transparent and predictable legal environment to support global business and commerce," he said.
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