Growing up in the World
George Newstrom, Chairman of WITSA talks to Intercomms about the evolution of the World Congress
Newstrom assumed his current responsibilities in
November, 2004. The experience he brings includes
holding a public appointment and 28 years as a
private sector executive.
Prior to heading WiSPER Technologies, LLC, Mr.
Newstrom was appointed by Governor Mark R. Warner
to serve as Secretary of Technology for the
Commonwealth of Virginia. As Secretary of
Technology, Mr. Newstrom advised the Governor on
the growth of technology in our global economy and
the effective use of information technology in state
government. Mr. Newstrom served as both CIO for the
Commonwealth and chief strategist for raising
Virginia's visibility in the global technology
Mr. Newstrom was previously with EDS, a
leading global information technology services
company. During his 28-year career with EDS, Mr.
Newstrom held various leadership positions in the
health care and government sectors. Mr. Newstrom
culminated his career at EDS as a corporate senior
vice president and president of EDS Asia Pacific. In
this role, Mr. Newstrom was responsible for EDS'
operations in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India,
Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New
Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and
Prior to joining EDS, Mr. Newstrom served in the
United States Marine Corps as a communications and
Mr. Newstrom's community involvement includes
serving on volunteer boards, helping service
organizations and actively supporting educational
opportunities for children. He has held advisory and
leadership roles on numerous foundations and
boards, including the Virginia Business Higher
Education Council, Harvard University's John F.
Kennedy School of Government advisory board, the
National Commission on Restructuring the Internal
Revenue Service, the 1998 World Congress on
Information Technology, the Information Technology
Association of America (ITAA), and the Virginia
Technology Council. He currently serves as chairman
of the board of the World Information Technology and
Services Alliance (WITSA).
Mr. Newstrom holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in
education administration from the University of
California. Mr. Newstrom has two children, Doug and
Kristen, a grandson, Peter George and a
granddaughter, Daniella Elisabeth.
Q: You've been involved in successive World
Congresses over several years. How has it
changed during that time?
A: This is my tenth year with the World Congress.
My first was in Bilbao, Spain in 1996. I then had
the fortunate opportunity to chair the event in
Fairfax Country, Virginia in 1998, which was one of
the better World Congresses. At that event we had
almost two thousand people and that experience
one of the things that started the transformation
of the World Congress to become a truly global
venue. Until then it tended to be a locally attended
event. Fairfax Country was the first time we tried
to make participation 50:50, half local the rest
international. That has been the goal of all World
Congresses since. In 2000 it was held in Taipei,
Taiwan and I became the Chairman of WITSA. In
2002 it was held in Adelaide, Australia and 2004
in Athens and this year it is in Austin, Texas.
Based on our very close working relationship with
the people in Austin, I predict that this will be the
best World Congress ever in terms of
participation, programme and visibility to the IT
world. We are extremely enthusiastic about what's
happening this year.
Q: In terms of the issues being addressed at
Bilbao, what has changed and what hasn't since
A: When a country is awarded the World Congress
they get to decide what the themes are for that
event for that year. In a way it really does change
according to country issues. However, 1998 was
the first time we had very multinational group. In
addition to the President of the United States,
Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Margaret Thatcher and
Mikhail Gorbachev all spoke at that World
Congress. Our theme was technology not for
technologies sake but technology driving other
industries whether it be health care,
manufacturing, product delivery, consumerism or
entertainment. Every one of those industries was
spoken to by industry experts, not technology
experts. The single most important conclusion that
keep coming out of every World Congress is just
how small the world is getting via IT as Thomas
Friedman clearly articulated in his new book 'The
World is Flat'. It really is making the world much
smaller and that is what keeps them coming to our
Q: Although multi-national the scope in terms of
where they are held - when are we going to see
venues in Africa or Latin America?
A: It's a good question which has two answers.
WITSA is comprised of 65-country associations
right now. In fact the only major country not a
member is China and we are working diligently to
have them join. Of the 65 I would say that just
eight represents over 90 percent of the world's IT
production and revenues. The other 57 are the
smaller countries. However, we spend as much
time on those as we do the larger players. We do
have other events every other year as well. For
instance we are going to Beirut, Lebanon this year
to have our annual board of directors meeting. and global policy conference.
The second part of the answer is analogous to
the Olympics. We are certainly not the same scale
but I do call our 'World Congress' events the
Olympics of Technology. The World Congress must
be at a location and a place that can handle and
support the event. It also takes money to put
together the venue and the speakers. It must be in
locations that people want to go to so we do have
events in different parts of the world and are
working with all our country associations at all
times to do so. Ultimately however, the World
Congress, just like the Olympics, has to be held in
a place and venues that will attract the type of
interest visibility we need.
Q: How long before we'll see a Congress outside
the traditional areas?
A: Within the next decade. We have interest from
Brazil, Russia and South Africa in holding the
2010 World Congress. We think we are going to
get a handful of bids from around the world but
again, when we evaluate the bids we have to
remember that having a place to go and people
going are two separate things. With the World
Congress, unlike most IT events, the people we
want to attend are the senior business leaders.
These are the 'CXO' level people, not technicians,
not the people who go to traditional 'trade show'
events. We are trying to attract the business
leaders who are working to create and implement
the strategy and vision of the future to come
together at this type of event. Therefore it is even
more important for us to have it at a substantive
location that will attract these sorts of people.
Q: China is not a WITSA member yet. When do
you think you will have formal representation
from a market of 1.3 billion consumers?
A: It is my desperate hope to achieve that as
soon as possible. They joined the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) a couple of years ago, which
was long time coming. WITSA and our Asia
oversight association are working very closely
with some of their senior government officials
and hopefully it will happen in the next three to
Q: What's been the impact year after year?
A: From a WITSA perspective when I took over the
chair in 2000 we had 24 countries members, now
we have 65. We have at least doubled and grown in
about five years. A large part of that growth was
the visibility that we got through the World
Congresses through the delegates that came
from the various countries and the success we
had in 1998 in the US and in 2000 in Taipei,
2002 in Adelaide and to a lesser extent in Greece
in 2004. I think our growth and visibility at the
World Congress has had a tremendous impact on
Fairfax County is still talking about the impact
that they had on the delegates and business growth
from the World Congress. While certainly one of the
most visible regions of the world with DC being 20
minutes away, this part of Virginia did not have the
type of IT-notoriety it needed, until WITSA held the
World Congress there in 1998.
Q: What about influencing government policy?
A: One of the biggest influences has been the
pure educational role on the issues around us.
Those issues are now global and are the same in
every country. Internet taxation is probably one of
the biggest public policy issues we deal with at
WITSA. There are so many diverse and variant
government agencies who all want have some of
the goodies that come along with the Internet and
the tax base that goes with it. It doesn't matter
what country you are from that is an issue that
goes around the world.
The second is Intellectual Property (IP) and IP
protection. We spend a considerable amount of
time with our member country associations
helping them understand how to protect their IP
first in their own countries and secondly how to do
business across the world with partners.
Additionally, WITSA has demonstrated leadership
on the hot-button issue of Internet governance,
including at the recently concluded World Summit
on the Information Society; and on international
trade issues, such as the WTO multilateral trade
Q: Austin is planning a series of votes by
delegates on a series of motions. What will be
the significance of this?
A: I applaud Austin. This is their concept. This
innovative, creative and real time so when those
votes are taken electronically, participants will be
able to see the direction and sense of the other
participants real time. That is very substantive. In
the past, very much like the United Nations and
the WTO, we have had paper presented and
discussion had but those take time to resolve and
sometimes you forget what the issues are and
what you talked about. I am thrilled that Austin is
doing this and it will substantially increase the
impact of the issues we are talking about and vote
on. I think this will generate visibility across the
world and into the next World Congress when we
do it that way. I am really looking forward to this
way of airing our issues?
Q: What is the continuing message of the World
A: It is interesting what I have seen is the
transformation of how technology is a support
element of almost everything we touch as human
being whether we are individual nor corporation or
corporate entities. There is almost nothing we
touch that doesn't have technology as a backdrop.
What is becoming very important in the
discussions at the World Congress is how
technology is part of, but not the central theme of
how we live and work. That is really coming out
now and that will be made clear at Austin during
our 2006 World Congress on Information
Technology in Austin, Texas May 3-6, 2006
(WCIT2006.org). I'm looking forward to the event.
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