Finding the mutual benefit of IT infrastructure

Last week I had the privilege to moderate a panel at the Global Ecommerce conference at the United Nations in New York. Even as delegates and private-sector people from around the world showed keen interest in the possibilities of e-commerce and e-government for economic development, attendees – particularly those from developing nations – were concerned that a lack of basic infrastructure will keep much of the world disconnected from the digital economy.

The question of security was particularly troubling. Politicians and business leaders understand increasingly well the vulnerabilities of a nation, government, or enterprise in an electronically networked world.

Some speakers argued that the best models for establishing the technology standards and policies for e-commerce reside in collaborative efforts between industry and government. By having the heads of vendor and user companies sit next to heads of state, governments would be able to formulate effective policies, while users would be ensured of the interoperability of technical standards.

Although light-years apart in terms of technical detail, the IT industry recognizes that collaboration is the best means for boosting economic development. As the industry coalesces around XML-based Web services as the next generation of software, IT vendors and corporate users are looking to soothe some early growing pains. As detailed in our Page One story, IT vendors are tackling thorny issues, including business models and technology architectures, to make Web services perform on an enterprise scale.

Building the underpinnings, or infrastructure, for a Web services network or an e-commerce application overseas may not be glamorous work. Without investing in a shared IT infrastructure, our ambitions and reality will remain worlds apart.