|Issue:||Europe II 2008|
|Topic:||Growing the Internet in Bulgaria|
|Author:||Dr. Plamen Vatchkov|
|Organisation:||State Agency for Information Technologies and Communications, Bulgaria|
Dr Vatchkov is the Chairman of Bulgaria’s State Agency for Information Technology and Communications. He chairs the National Radio Frequency Council and the Interdepartmental Commission for Space Research and is an Associate Professor in Technical Sciences at the Higher Commission for Attestation. In his long career, Dr Vatchkov has served in a wide variety of executive and academic posts including: Deputy Director Operations of Cabletel; Director of Information Technology, Overgas Holding; Managing Director of Bulvar Electronics, Ltd; Deputy Director of the Institute for Technical Cybernetics and Robotics of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences; General Director of Micro Processing Systems; and as an Assistant Professor at the Technical University in Moscow. Dr Vatchkov began his career as an engineer at the Central Computing Institute in Sofia. He is currently a member of the Academic Council of the International University and a member of the Balkan Academy of Sciences and a member of the Federation of the Scientific and Technical Unions in Bulgaria and the Union of Scientists in Bulgaria. Dr Vatchkov is a former member of the Scientific Council of the Institute for Technical Cybernetics and Robotics. He was awarded the 2007 prize of the Bulgarian Association of Information Technologies for overall personal contribution to the development of the information technologies in Bulgaria. Dr Vatchkov obtained a MSc in Industrial Electronics and PhD in Technical Sciences at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute. Dr Vatchkov has specialisations in Microprocessor Devices, Management and Quality Management.
The United Nation’s Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) is an effort to reduce the digital divide by providing developing countries with access to information and communications. The Internet has brought new opportunities to the world’s developing economies. It made outsourcing possible, for example, which brought new jobs and know-how; as a result developing regions became major exporters of business services to the rest of the world – something unthinkable only ten years ago. Traditionally, decades of development and intensive government spending were required for significant change. Today, a modern and well-supported information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, qualified staff and good governance drive rapid change.The DSF is financed by a one per cent ‘digital solidarity contribution’ levied voluntarily upon purchases of ICT-related equipment. The DSF is giving priority to its 1000 telemedicine units for Africa programme, and its educational programme which distributes interactive whiteboards for classrooms.
The Internet via broadband and the digital technologies have, during the last decade, dramatically changed the way people around the world live and work. Outsourcing brings new jobs and know-how to the developing regions of the world; as a result these regions have become major exporters of business services to the rest of the world. Outsourcing provides these regions with opportunities that would have been unthinkable only ten years ago. Today, important hardware suppliers have significant manufacturing operations in Singapore and China, and major companies develop their software in India and the tax returns of American citizens are increasingly prepared by Israeli, Indian or Bulgarian accounting firms. We are rapidly entering upon a new era of ubiquitous computing and communications. Over a decade ago, the late Mark Weiser developed a seminal vision of future technological ubiquity – one in which the increasing availability of processing power would be accompanied by its decreasing visibility. As he observed, “the most profound technologies are those that disappear, they weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it”. Early forms of ubiquitous information and communication networks are evident in the widespread use of mobile phones, smart phones and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). The world is becoming ‘flat’; innovation and technology are driving a new vision of development based upon a networked society, which is rapidly changing cultural, economic and political factors and traditions around the globe. In his book, The Rise of the Network Society, the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells, states that networks constitute the new social morphology of our societies: “Our world, and our lives, are being shaped by the conflicting trends of globalization and identity. The information technology revolution, and the restructuring of capitalism, have induced a new form of society, the network society. It is characterized by the globalization of strategically decisive economic activities: by the networking form of organisation; by the flexibility and instability of work, and the individualization of labour; by a culture of real virtuality constructed by a pervasive, interconnected, and diversified media system; and by the transformation of material foundations of life, space and time, through the constitution of a space of flows and of timeless time, as expressions of dominant activities and controlling elites. In the information age, information – however construed – becomes the most important input and output of the economy. Since ‘information’ is both transformative and opportunistic, it colonizes all areas of experience. Hence, the ‘information age’ is also social and cultural in addition to material. These changes – economic policy, economic autonomy of governments, and, ultimately, the relationship between the governments and the economy – are only possible because of deregulation and liberalization that took place in the 1980s in most countries, and because of the existence of an infrastructure of telecommunications, information systems, and fast transportation systems that provide the technological capacity for the system to work as a unit on a global scale.” The global economy is not the same as that of a highly internationalized nation. The global economy is based on the ability of the core activities – meaning money, capital markets, production systems, management systems, information – to work as a unit in real time on a planetary scale. Meaning that, at this point, we can process, and we do, billions and billions of dollars in seconds. And that can change from values to values, from markets to markets, from currencies to currencies, which increases the complexity, the size, and, ultimately, the volatility of global financial markets around the world. Which, in fact, makes impossible any kind of autonomy of financial markets in one country or one place vis-à-vis what’s happening in the global system; which, therefore, makes extremely difficult any kind of monetary and budget policy which does not take into consideration the global financial market. The accumulation of a critical mass of inventions, technologies and infrastructure first made it possible to feel the effects of this new situation at the end of the twentieth and in the beginning of the twenty-first century. One of the most important consequences of the intellectualization of the economy is the changing technological paradigm. The notion of technical paradigm elaborated by Carola Perez, Christofer Freeman and Giovanni Dosi, is an adaptation of the classical analysis of scientific revolutions by Thomas Khun. Manuel Castells defines the milestones of the new technological paradigm as follows: 1. Information is a raw material – technologies now have an impact upon information, in past technological revolutions information had an impact upon the technologies; 2. Pervasiveness of the new technologies provides a new level of quality – information is an integral part of all human activity, all processes of our individual and collective existence are directly shaped by the new technological medium; 3. Any system or set of relationships using the new information technologies need a networking logic, otherwise the system remains marginal and cannot become part of the technological paradigm; 4. The information technology paradigm is based on flexibility – the processes are reversible and organisations and institutions can be modified, even fundamentally altered, by rearranging their components; 5. The growing convergence of specific technologies into a highly integrated system – in the network economy, the innovative breakouts in one area quickly and easily lead to inventions in other areas and the synergies increase their effectiveness. The examples are all around us: The impact of microelectronics and software innovations, for example, upon telecommunications has stimulated the growth of networking and increased productivity. Many developments in biology, chemistry and physics during the last twenty years are due to powerful new information technologies; nanotechnologies are growing based upon microelectronic manufacturing technologies; and 6. The information technology (IT) paradigm, today, is that of a network – it is as accessible, adaptive and open as FOSS (free and open software) and, since everybody can add information and knowledge, IT is increasingly stable, trusted and secure. The EU is an integral part of the global network, and effective participation in this global network is crucially important to accelerate Bulgaria’s social and economic development. Traditionally, decades of gradual development and intensive government spending would be required for significant change. The rapid changes we are speaking about require a modern and well supported information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure, qualified staff and good governance. The ubiquitous network society, the new technological paradigm, will be based to a great extent upon the development of the ‘Internet of Things’ and a robust digital ecosystem. At the dawn of the Internet revolution, users were amazed at the ability to access people and information across oceans and time zones, with only a few clicks of their mouse. To do so, however, they needed a computer (PC) to connect to the Internet. Today, one can also use mobile phones and WiFi connected laptops. Today via the Internet, we can connect to people anytime, anywhere; the next logical step in this technological revolution is to connect inanimate objects via the same network. This is the vision underlying the Internet of Things. The use of electronic RFID (radio frequency identification) as tags and sensors in everyday items such as razors, shoes and packaging, will extend communication and monitoring potential to a vast series of new applications and services via the Internet. Advances in nanotechnology (i.e. manipulation of matter at the molecular level) will further accelerate these developments. We are on the brink of a new computing and communication era, one that will radically transform our enterprise, community, and personal spheres. With continuing developments in miniaturization and declining costs, it is becoming not only technologically possible but also economically feasible to make everyday objects smarter, and to connect the world of people with the world of things. Building this new environment however, will pose a number of challenges. Technological standardization in most areas is still in its infancy, or remains fragmented. Not surprisingly, managing and fostering rapid technological innovation will be a challenge for governments and industry alike. One of the most important challenges will be convincing users to adopt emerging technologies like RFID. Concerns over privacy and data protection are widespread, particularly as sensors and smart tags can track a user’s movements, habits and preferences on a perpetual basis. Fears related to nanotechnology range from bio-medical hazards to robotic control. Despite the concern, scientific and technological advances in these fields continue to move ahead at breakneck speed. It is through awareness of such advances, and the challenges they present, that we can prepare ourselves to reap the benefits of a fair, user-centric and global Internet of Things. Digital ecosystems are moving away from the traditional, rigidly defined, collaborative environments into an open, flexible, domain cluster, demand-driven, interactive environment. Today’s digital ecosystems are built upon networked architectures and collaborative environments that bypass the weaknesses of current client-server, peer-to-peer, grid, and web services. The global use of the Internet is rapidly rising. It is helping to close the digital divide between nations and to make life the world over easier and more cheerful. n References: The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell (1996) (second edition, 2000) Mobilizing the Information Society: Strategies for Growth and Opportunity Robin Mansell and W. Edward Steinmueller , 2002, Oxford University Press Social Learning in Technological Innovation: Experimenting with Information and Communication Technologies (Hardcover), Robin Williams, James Stewart Roger Slack, 2005, Edward Elgar Publishing.