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Cebit kicks off with talk of openness

Peter Sayer | Feb. 28, 2011
Open democracy, open borders and open standards were the themes to which speakers returned again and again at the opening ceremony for the Cebit trade show in Hannover, Germany, on Monday night.

Opening its borders could help Germany to recruit better-qualified foreign workers: The country suffers from a perennial shortage of skilled IT workers, as Bitkom's Scheer lamented.

"We must tackle this labor shortage -- by modernizing our education system, by undertaking greater efforts within the business community, and by introducing uncomplicated immigration arrangements for talented people," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel response was to joke that the introduction of chips to passports will make it easier to fit more visas in them in future. But, she acknowledged, "Travel conditions have to improve," and "We may have to become more flexible" about visa policy.

IBM's Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano -- only the eighth person to lead the company about to celebrate its 100th anniversary -- had little to say about open borders, but talked about three other forms of openness.

"First, we must have standards, and they must be open," he said. Not just in IT, but also at the interfaces between transportation systems and energy, education and health care, and among water, traffic, commerce, public safety and government services. The IT industry must take the lead to establish such standards, he said.

Second, the IT industry must recognize some important policy implications of its work, he said.

IT can speed emergency response, aid rescuers following natural disasters, and improve health care, he said. But there is a lack of openness about what happens to the data collected.

"Some citizens have expressed discomfort. Who owns all this data. What will they do with it? Do I trust them?" Palmisano said.

Finally, he called for a more open model for leadership in the industry.

"The cult of personality in business is a powerful lure. ... IBM's founder, Thomas Watson Sr., was one of its prototypes. But given the complex reality of a global system of systems, this model no longer seems appropriate. Much more, we will have to lead by listening -- by attending to what these mutlifaceted ecosystems are telling us. We need to influence, not dictate," he said. "And we will need management systems that are architected for inclusion, collaboration and, yes, transparency," he said.

Cebit, at the Hanover fairgrounds, opens Tuesday and runs through Saturday.

 

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