Infobahn will soon be reality

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 1995, 12:00am

SINCE stepping into office in 1993, the United States Vice-President Al Gore has proved to be something of an unlikely champion of the on-line industry, a supporter with the kind of clout to get things done.

About this time last year Mr Gore was telling anyone who would listen that cyberspace was not merely a hackers playground, but was, in effect, the modern day equivalent of the trade and shipping routes of the last century.

For service industries such as the financial community, the Net was the basic infrastructure for economic growth.

By way of leading by example, Mr Gore was the motivating force behind such projects as putting the White House on-line.

The good news is Mr Gore has proved to be in on this one for the long haul, outlining US proposals last week which will be put to a G7 meeting starting on Friday that aims to further liberalise the world's telecommunications markets.

Telecommunications will be a topic central to the agenda when the Group of Seven - the major industrialised countries made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - meet in Brussels.

And you can expect to hear plenty about global networks, if only because Mr Gore is keynote speaker at the conference.

He revealed his agenda last week, urging nations worldwide to promote private and government efforts to co-operate in building a global information infrastructure (GII) of interconnected local, national and regional networks.

Improved access to information, 'can and will facilitate improvements in the human condition', Mr Gore said, 'regardless of geographic location, income, or level of education', claiming that the difference between the communications infrastructure that exists today and the GII of the future would be as dramatic as the difference between the packet ships of the 1700's and the overnight mail service of today.

For Internet enthusiasts, of whom there are many in Hong Kong, Mr Gore is a powerful (if somewhat distant) ally. The only question that remains is whether anyone will listen and acts on the advice.

MEANWHILE, it is clearly debatable whether the world really needed another telecommunications industry group, but it got one anyway.

And it might well prove to be the kind of group that will help Mr Gore with his plans for a global information infrastructure (GII).

Formed at a meeting in Melbourne, Australia, last week the new group goes by the acronym (what else?) TINA-C, or the Telecommunications Information Networking Architecture Consortium.

The aim of TINA-C, which is made up of some 40 companies from around the world, is to develop an architecture that will enable the efficient introduction and management of telecom services on a global basis.

The membership of TINA-C reads like a Who's Who of the industry, so it would seem unlikely to be the kind of lame duck organisation we have seen so often in the telecom industry. Interesting enough, its membership is not restricted to telecommunications companies. A throng of computer companies are also involved, reflecting the convergence of interests of the two industries.

Included are IBM, Digital Equipment, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu on the computing side, as well as telecom giants such as AT&T, BT, Cable & Wireless, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and Telstra.

The formation of the group should, if nothing else, speed up the delivery of global standards on which Mr Gore's GII will be based. It aims to produce the standards on which rapid development of new and sophisticated services such as multimedia can take place.

The first visible signs of the new consortium's success (or otherwise) should become apparent at the giant telecommunications showcase Telecom '95, to be held in Geneva in October, where TINA-C promises to conduct live demonstrations of new global products.