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Prof. Dr. Ryszard Struzak


This first issue of International Communications appears in a period marked by two events: the 11 September attack on the World Trade Centre and the Iraq war. Both these events put the security and safety issues in the centre of public attention, and showed a hidden side of information and communication technologies (ICT). Until now, very few people were worrying about information warfare and security, or about the battlefield ICT. These events happened during the period “...of a great revolution, perhaps the greatest that humanity has ever experienced", as we can read in the first announcement of the World Summit on the Information Society. The number of people using phones, computers, and the Internet increases continuously. Each year brings new hardware and software versions that are easier to use, performing better, and offering new services and applications. Timely access to information is becoming of primary importance. Whether we like it or not, each of us takes part in this process, although nobody knows what really it will bring with it. However, the world is not uniform. The rich 20% of the world population suffer from overflow of information, whereas the poor majority has no access to the basic telecommunication services. Whereas the rich regions are saturated, the poor ones are lacking the needed investment capital. It means to a stagnant ICT market, disadvantageous for both, the rich and the poor. A number of initiatives have been launched to improve that situation. In 1993, the Information Infrastructure Task Force was formed in the USA. In the same year, the European Council created a special group to prepare an ICT action plan. In Canada, the Information Highway Advisory Council was established in 1994. Similar actions were undertaken in Japan, Korea, and in other countries. In 2000, the world leaders, known as the G8 group, issued their famous Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society.

Until now, the results of these actions are visible in rich countries only, except perhaps for China. China, with its unique mixture of capitalism and communism, astonishes the world by the speed with which it deploys ICT infrastructure. In most of the under-developed regions, however, the ‘digital gap’ does not close as quickly as needed. Some believe it is even widening. Over-optimistic market analyses and exorbitant RF spectrum prices in key markets added new problems. A series of fraudulent book keeping and earning manipulations, combined with inadequate regulations, undermined the confidence in liberal economy. Anti-globalisation demonstrations in many countries showed this convincingly.

In 2000, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) called for action to close the “digital divide”. The UN Millennium Report counted that divide among the main problems faced by humanity today. The UN World Summit on the Information Society could find a solution if favourable investments conditions in poor regions could be established. However, the UN ability to solve problems decreased after the fiasco of its attempts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis. The summit is scheduled for December 2003, but earlier, in June – July, the World Radio Communication Conference will seek a global agreement on how radio frequencies are to be used. Wars, and war preparations, have always used science and technology; on the one hand to terrify enemies and kill them in a most cost-effective way, and on the other hand to produce adequate countermeasures. Later, however, most military applications find civilian uses. This process has been repeated since distant antiquity, and the Internet (developed originally for the US Department of Defence) is a good example of this. The Iraqi war is no exception. What is different now, however, is that the weapons, sensors, computers, communication systems, are linked into a giant computing web of commanders, soldiers, hardware, software, and databases. While many of the technologies used in Iraq have been known for years, this is the first time they created a truly networked battlefield, or “digital war” (as Business Week named it), which could mark a new era in the art of war. After the war finished, many billions of dollars will be spent on further development of information and communication technology and applications.

Whatever the problems, the trend towards ICT-based war seems irreversible. The same is true of the electronic monitoring and surveying of people after the 11 September. A significant part of the budget in the USA and in other countries will be injected into the ICT sector, reanimating it quickly. Next year, defence spending on ICT is expected to grow up 19%, to $27.8 billion in the USA alone, according to Business Week ¹, and the trend will most probably continue in the following years. That spending could attract venture capitalists to exploit the opportunity of massive technology transfer between military and civilian applications. Wearable computers, information display goggles, GPS receivers, and software-based communication terminals are expected to become mass products. Wireless access to mobile intranets and the worldwide Internet will be omnipresent anywhere and anytime. It will create new radio frequency spectrum congestion and spectrum management problems that will have to be solved. The satellite sector will probably become more important, and new technologies, such as ultra-wideband systems (UWB) and high-altitude platforms (HAP) will be widely introduced. ²

International Communications appears in a critical period and intends to satisfy the needs of a wide audience interested in information and communication technologies and their applications. The publication covers a wide range of issues, from global trends to specific technologies, products, and services. Due consideration is also given to the special needs of developing countries and to technology transfer. In addition, it contains invited papers written by leading experts. The publication is available in electronic format on CD ROM disks. It is also accessible via the Internet at www.intercomms.net.

I believe International Communications offers useful information, promoting cooperation, prosperity and peace. After all, in spite of conflicts, “[t]ransport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of flickering pictures – in this century as in others our highest accomplishments”, as writes Saint-Exupéry,³ “still have the single aim of bringing men together...”

Prof. Dr. R. Struzak
April 2003

  1. Digital War: Business Week, April 7, 2003
  2. The satellites and HAPS are discussed further in this volume.
  3. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), a French writer and aviator, one of the pioneers of international postal flights.

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