Info-Tech Industry Bolsters U.S. Clout

Article excerpt

CONGRESSMAN CALLS FOR MORE TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN

Electronic commerce has been heralded by some as the biggest industrial revolution since the railroad. Conducting business online rapidly is becoming a way of life. Whether people are purchasing items from their homes or processing information from workstations, the electronic business know-how and familiarity with the Internet are important skills. And kids are acquiring them at a young age.

"The good news about the younger people is that most of them actually come in quite well-versed in the World Wide Web," said Milt Cooper, president of the Federal Sector business unit of Computer Sciences Corporation, a major information technology provider that is based in Falls Church, Va.. "[They are] very comfortable doing business electronically, dealing in digits rather than paper, all of the things that some of us older folks had to learn how to do. But all of the companies that are significant players in the private sector in IT [information technology] have enormous investment in the training of people."

Nowadays, training starts in a grade school classroom.

"If you don't have a vision for all children being educated, then I think [all that you do] is a failure," said Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif, at the 21st Century Commerce Expo, in San Diego.

The conference was sponsored by the Association For Enterprise Integration (AFEI), formerly known as the CALS Industry Steering Group.

Cunningham believes that training and education have much to do with the U.S. military's recent personnel recruiting and retention difficulties.

"Right now, we have less than 23 percent of our enlisted [whom] we're keeping in the military ... Think about the quality. Think of the challenge just to train the new people who are coming in. In industry, the whole world has changed, You don't work 50 years and get a gold watch anymore. You're liable within a I 0-year period to end up with three or four different positions. And unless you have an education system geared for that-with high-tech, good quality teachers who inspire these children-then I think we're falling behind."

Cunningham believes that excessive government regulations have stood in the way of efforts to compete in global markets. The emerging presence of electronic commerce or electronic business may be the means to put the United States back on top, he says.

"We do need to change things... In a country like America, we have let technology slip through our fingers," said Cunningham. "Government has been a hindrance and not an aide. And that concerns me. But at the same time, I look at private industry, and how [it has] fallen farther and farther behind ... Government must be there to lead. We do things backwards in government.

Cunningham, a conservative Republican and former Navy pilot, expressed concern about Russia exporting weaponry to I I countries. He added that if Yugoslavia had obtained such assets during the war over Kosovo, U.S. air power would not have been able to counter them, and the results could have been catastrophic.

He believes the problem, however, is with policy, rather than technology. He referred to today's regulatory environment as p-commerce, or parasite commerce.

Said Cunningham, "[America Online founder] Steve Case said that 'policy is more important than the actual technology.' Take a look at frivolous lawsuits. Look at the trial lawyers [who believe] 'if it moves, sue it.' Or the union bosses [who] support big government ... higher taxes ... more rules and regulations to stymie ... That is the parasite commerce that I'm talking about. It is an enemy to your industry, and it's an enemy to this country. And we need to change it, as well.

"... Government needs to change in the 21st century ... Look at the IRS ... Three billion dollars for a computer system, and they failed their own audit. …