Mobile Future

How technology benefits economic development: a panel discussion in Arizona

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in a technology panel presentation in Arizona with Larry Irving, President of the Irving Information Group and former Assistant Secretary of NTIA, and Debra Berlyn, President of Consumer Policy Solutions.  Having known and admired both Larry and Debra for many years, it was great fun to see them and hear more about what they are up to these days.    

Larry Irving is an expert on broadband delivery and is more qualified than just about anybody to speak about the coming exaflood.  The term "exaflood," refers to the torrent of data the Internet will have to handle in the very near future. The amount of information we upload, download and share is growing at an exponential rate.  As explained by Larry, this is exciting, but it’s also a challenge. The capacity of the Internet, its "bandwidth," is limited, and more bytes consume more bandwidth.  By way of example, Larry explained that today, over 1/3 of entertainment is being viewed on our computers, not our televisions.  He pointed out the exponential growth of YouTube, where in 2007 over 65,000 videos were uploaded every day, while millions were downloaded daily.  He believes that we are soon to see the end of linear television, television that is broadcast at a set, predetermined time.  Indeed he noted that our youth believes that the idea of "timed tv" is silly. 

Larry worries that the exaflood will cause the internet to become less efficient over time and proposed that policymakers take two steps.  First, to determine what communities in America have access to broadband delivery systems.  Second, to take steps, working along with private industry, to ensure that unserved communities deploy broadband. 

Debra Berlyn is an expert in internet safety issues.  She pointed out that there are significant differences in perception based on age regarding internet safety.  For example, 52% of parents say that they sit alongside their teenager whenever they’re online, but only 33% of kids confirm that position.  She proposed four steps to promote internet safety:

o       Recognize that what goes online – stays online,

o       Have an ongoing conversation with your family about online safety and privacy,

o       Go to consumerpolicysolutions.com for guidance and additional information, and

o       Be vigilant about what you put online      

And, of course, I spoke about the indispensable uses of wireless in entrepreneurship, sharing my new favorite factoid – "A 2008 survey by IDC found that more than 38% of workers would choose their mobile phone over their wallet, keys, laptop or other digital music player if they had to leave the house for 24 hours and could only take one item".   

Arizona State Rep. Chad Campbell did a great job chairing the program.  It was a terrific audience, smart and committed to economic development for the state of Arizona and the western region.  Indeed, the audience astutely wondered whether our current practice of asking our students to leave technology outside the schoolhouse should be modified so that we can better produce truly technologically savvy students – an inquiry certainly worthy of further discussion.