Interest in trans-sector policies was very apparent by the 2,500 delegates who attended the recent WCIT2010 conference in Amsterdam. Developments in information and communication technology (ICT) are now clearly being seen as a catalyst to a number of fundamental changes needed in our society. Economically, this concept is also seen as a way to create new markets, jobs and generate new business opportunities.
At the same time however, the reality of the second wave of the global financial crisis is hitting Europe very hard and the market is clearly nervous. While some ICT providers appeared upbeat, a different picture emerged at private lunches and dinners. No money is available as most government budgets have been severely reduced. The large ICT companies have been affected more than the smaller companies which operate in niche markets. In addition, governments are now more inclined to splinter their budgets, and this has effectively put an end to the many ‘umbrella’ contracts which basically had put the larger ICT companies in charge of major government contracts.
However, the trans-sector approach was seen as a new and innovative way to deal with the cutbacks as sharing and open systems are now becoming more mainstream, at least at the higher levels of government. But it is still an uphill battle to convince individual sectors to think more horizontally and work together with colleagues from other sectors.
For example, several cities in Europe are now connected by FttH but the healthcare industry cannot be persuaded to use this infrastructure for e-health applications, and there is very little interest from the various sub-sectors within the healthcare industry to be willing to give up their own silo-based ICT systems and work together.
The enormous benefits of digital and green economies are mentioned in various governments’ reports and policy documents, but they fall short of following them up with national policies.
Industry and consumer groups are constantly requesting national plans and national approaches. The private sectors cannot direct them to become more digital, but the governments can. So far governments are leaving this decision to the individual ministries and departments; however, there is no incentive for these sectors to voluntarily give up their autonomy which they believe they can maintain by having closed systems which only apply to their sector or sub-sector. Sharing with others is often regarded as losing their independence. Only the government at its highest levels can direct these sectors to change their attitude and behaviour.
This illustrates the difference between trans-sector and cross-sector. Trans-sector refers to governments needing to show vision and have the political will to implement cross-sector developments. Cross-sector implementation takes place at an operational level. At WCIT the ICT Axis was mentioned as a tool in the cross-sector approach. However, horizontal integration and cooperation will not occur without governments’ trans-sector thinking.
Governments often link giving leadership with money; however, the industry is not asking for extra money. In fact, using trans-sector policies can actually cut government costs. Literally tens of billions of dollars can be saved through a trans-sector approach to healthcare, education, communications, public safety, energy and transport. Apart from perhaps some seeding money being required to change attitudes and behaviour, there is plenty of money within these sectors to use for the implementation of cross-sector strategies.
However, the reality is that most countries lack government leadership. The second wave of the GFC has had an enormous impact in Europe, where government leaders are retreating into their trenches rather than embracing the new digital and green economies as opportunities to lead them out of the crisis. A crisis will often initiate bold visions and strategies and our leaders need to be encouraged to implement them.
The highest levels of industry can assist to support these visions and strategies. In 2009 BuddeComm organised a highly successful tour of leading CEOs in Australia to speak with ministers and encourage them to support the trans-sector approach towards infrastructure investments this country; and slowly but surely progress is now being made. I have used this example during my travels as a possibility for the ICT industry in other countries to engage with their governments.
- Global – National Broadband & Trans-sector developments in Australia & New Zealand
- Global – Trans-sector strategies – an empirical approach
- Global Next Generation Telecoms – FttH and Trans-Sector Strategies
- Global Recovery will Depend on Trans-Sector Vision
- Global – Fast broadband and Trans-sector policies
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