On the 18th of February, IIA CEO Irene Gahan together with Chairman John O’Shea met with a US delegation lead by Congressman Bob Goodlatte for an Ecommerce and Technology Briefing which was kindly facilitated by Microsoft and hosted by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (www.netcaucus.org). The roundtable discussion included members of Congress, US Business Officials and members of several technology associations including the Association for Competitive Technology, Business Software Alliance, CompTIA, Ebay, Microsoft, ISA, and the Internet Advisory Board. Among the many topics discussed the main focus was in combating SPAM and highlighting the need for greater international co-operation between countries.
The meeting was greatly interested in understanding why so many US multinationals were committing funding to both establishing centres in Ireland or developing their Irish interests further. One concern was the amount of localisation that was being undertaken in Ireland that may be taking employment opportunities from the US. Both the IIA and the ISA put forward the case for Ireland not just in terms of the corporate tax rate but also the highly skilled workforce available here as well as being the gateway into EMEA markets.
Megan Kinnaird of the Internet Education Foundation (www.neted.org), a foundation that is funded by the private sector to educate members of congress, suggested that the US has considerable obstacles to Internet development. In Europe we have a tendency to look to the US for emerging technologies however the US are also looking to Europe for a lead on various issues. Due to the telecom’s infrastructure in the US they have considerable concerns over Voice over IP and its development. While in Europe, we attribute the majority of SPAM arriving in our mail boxes as originating in the US, they attribute Europe and Aisa for the majority of incoming US SPAM. The delegation expressed great interest in the recent adoption of the EU Electronic Communications Networks, Services and Data Protection and Privacy Regulations 2003, which provides for fines of €3,000 for each SPAM message. The IIA in conjunction with Microsoft and Entropy are producing a while paper on SPAM which will be published in April.
Since 9/11 the US have major concerns with the security of wireless technology particularly on Capitol Hill. SMS hasn’t taken off in the US in the same way as in Europe due to the low cost of phone calls. Mobile calls are still relatively expensive and but SMS is increasing as costs are coming down. Kinnaird sees this as an opportunity for European suppliers of mobile technology applications. Instant messenging is used extensively in the US for business, not only between organisations but also internally.
One thing that Kinnaird commented on which reflects similar feelings in Ireland is that they too are looking for the next ‘killer application’ for broadband. Average costs for broadband in the US are about $25 – $45 dollars per month and while take up is growing, they recognise the need to educate the consumer market about the extensive benefits of broadband.
Another US concern is how legislation coming out of Brussels will affect US businesses. The IIA has committed to cross sharing the resources of its various working groups as has the Internet Education Foundation in the US to ensure that both organisations keep up-to-date.