Cerf: Internet growth will come from Asia

At the Pacific Telecommunications Council’s 28th conference, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf declared that major Internet growth will now come from Asia, which represents 56% of the world’s population.

HONOLULU - At the Pacific Telecommunications Council’s 28th conference here, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf declared that major Internet growth will now come from Asia, which represents 56% of the world’s population.

At 332 million users, Asia currently weighs in at a third of the Internet’s 1 billion global users, a penetration that only taps 15% of the population worldwide today, said Cerf, who was recently hired by Google as its chief Internet evangelist. Europe has 285 million users, compared to North America’s 224 million.

Other conference sessions focused on disaster recovery and international security, more urgent in Asia as a result of the tsunami and South Asian earthquake disasters in the last year.

In carrier telecommunications, there were reports of the expansion of national telcos to international providers. China Netcom (CNC, the incumbent local exchange carrier of north China) is becoming a provider of international telecommunications services. Its “Olympic strategy” has the company achieving significant international presence by the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

Telekom Malaysia (re-branded as TM) is partnering as a significant player in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan in wireless and broadband services. The entry of these new national-turned-international companies signals expanding competition in Asia, which could produce domino effects of increasing competitive pressure in global telecommunications markets across the world.

In his keynote speech, Cerf said he sees an accelerating rise of Internet-enabled appliances as varied as refrigerators, picture frames, wine corks, even an active surfboard. Fujitsu Laboratories, for example, showing how it’s targeting IP-based home networking, talked about IP-enabling kitchen appliances, alarm systems and electric door locks.

Cerf also drew attention to the NASA-funded Interplanetary Internet project called “InterPlaNet” or IPN. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory-based project is researching using terrestrial Internet protocols to develop planetary internets, starting with Mars, with connections to Earth. Interplanetary Gateways and the development of an Interplanetary Long-Haul Protocol are among the challenges Cerf noted. These raise technical issues for delay- and disruption-tolerant protocols, given synchronizing networks against the rotations of two planets at once, for example.

Also taking place in Honolulu, the Intelligent Community Forum announced its annual list of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities. The forum compiles this list based on how advanced a community is in deploying broadband, building a knowledge-based workforce, bridging the digital divide and encouraging innovation and effective economic development.

The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2006 are:

• Cleveland, United States

• Gangnam District (Seoul), Korea

• Ichikawa, Japan

• Manchester, United Kingdom

• Taipei, Taiwan

• Tianjin, China

• Waterloo, Canada

Tianjin, the third largest city in China, was also a Top Seven recipient in 2005, and continues its emerging visibility. Tianjin is working to become north China’s Silicon Valley equivalent. It joined two other Asian communities. Taipei also makes its second appearance on the list along with Seoul, represented by its Gangnam District.

The United States was represented for the first time since 2004 by Cleveland. The Ohio city is working with community initiatives, especially its OneCleveland project, to transform the Ohio regional corridor from manufacturing to knowledge work. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, home of the Blackberry device, also made its initial appearance on the list.

The cities are finalists for Intelligent Community of the Year. The winner will be announced in June in New York.

Dr. Jay Gillette is Professor of Information and Communication Sciences at Ball State University and Director of its Human Factors Institute. He has written extensively on information technologies and policy, and previously worked as a program manager at Bellcore (now Telcordia Technologies).

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