Wednesday, 21 May 2008 09:08
A new report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) highlights six trends in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
The report suffers from a fixation on technology. Its comfort zone is bits, bytes and gizmos. Equal space should have been given to use made of IT and communications by business and consumers and the wide-ranging implications of changing patterns of use.
The 18 page report is titled Top six trends in communications and media technologies, applications and services: possible implications (PDF file).
The report succinctly lists its top six trends set out below. We've added links to related reading on this website.
- TREND 1: An accelerating pace of change driven by overlapping developments in technology, and connections between people, databases and objects. For reference to evidence of acceleration see - Speed pays in IP commercialisation.
- TREND 2: Diversity in the development of physical infrastructure, including broadband, digital broadcasting of radio and television, location sensing [eg Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and GPS], sensor networks [eg Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags] and intelligent transport systems. See: 7 commercialised IT technologies. Illustrated is an IBM RFID shopping trolly technology. Presumably it responds to shelf-specific offers or information.
- TREND 3:
Continuing spread of distributed connectivity through the integration of information processing beyond the desktop into everyday objects and activities. Relevant here is the ongoing reduction of the costs of data storage and the increased availability of storage devices. These include solid state or flash memory. Connectivity is being enhanced also with the spread of transmission using internet protocol (IP), eg Voice over IP (VoIP) systems such as those of Skype, internet video and internet protocol TV (IPTV). See Four billion subscribers and DVRs and video on demand in Australia.
- TREND 4: Enhanced content and network management capabilities driven by developments in deep packet inspection and content filtering technologies. The discussion here includes comments on identity management (IdM) standards developed by the International Telecommunications Union and Digital Rights Management (DRM) endeavours in the face of illegal file sharing. See discussion of DRM here - Grappling with fallacies: music formats and DRM.
- TREND 5: The emerging social web acting both as a platform and database. Reference is made to the increasing trend of third-party development of applications programming interfaces (APIs), mashups (eg content drawn from multiple websites), widgets (portable code that users can install and execute on their web pages), and web-enabled mobile devices. See Structured networks and the next internet wave and Why is social media such a hit?
- TREND 6: Continuing scientific and technological innovation. The way this is treated there's no evidence of a trend as such. Rather, there are short references to a few topics, eg Moore's Law and new display technologies (claimed to be better than LCD and plasma) and leading to ultra-thin screens.
Lightbulb has written extensively about all six trends and gone beyond.
There are major gaps in the report. It is really only a research note. It tends to fall for gizmos and technologies, rather than soft considerations which may ultimately be more significant than many of the six trends.
- There is little discussion regarding the nature of changes relating specifically to content.
- There are merely two references to the word "advertising". Yet it is changes wrought by ICT to advertising and business models sustained by it (eg those of many print and digital publishers and all ad agencies) that should bump that topic into the six top trends.
- There is too little discussion of changing user and consumer attitudes, behaviours, habits and lifestyles. For example see Teenage mobile phone use statistics and Commercialisation of IP and IT products for Australian children: trends and statistics.
- While acceleration seems apparent, the report provides little supporting evidence. Again see Speed pays in IP commercialisation. If change is accelerating that is vital to evidence; otherwise it's like claiming global warming but failing to comment on its speed.
- Too little note is made of the open source software movement, increasing data mining by Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and others with huge online data capture opportunities, and peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. See Lightbulb discussions - The benefits of free and open source software and Learn to love P2P filesharing.
- There is a fixation on consumer-level use of ICT, rather than on use in business. There is for example little discussion of either e-business or the spread of e-commerce. See SMS revenue models and e-marketing legal compliance. Remember the 1990s? Media fixation on the next big thing of the internet brought with it under-reporting of other major trends, eg enterprise resource management.
Legal issues and blind spots
Following are legal or regulatory issues, noted in the report as common to all six trends:
- Privacy law.
- E-security, including interception and surveillance, malware, phishing and identity management. Discussed further here - Checklist of 51 hints for data and IT security.
- Competition law considerations such as interoperability, network interconnection, operational systems inter-working.
- Energy efficiency in line with international agreements.
- Issues with regulatory definitions, eg "broadcasting" under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) which excludes streaming services but covers them in Schedule 7 applying a "much higher benchmark to permitted versus prohibited content" says the report.
Moreover it is blind to some major evolving legal issues. To take one example, Google's moves with AdWords, YouTube and Google book search. They are reshaping the competitive landscape for publishers and advertisers. Google puts itself in the middle, creating a "perfect market" for itself, "selling" one to the other.
With no attempt to capture any framework which might simplify the regulatory context, the report leaves us with disparate legal shopping lists. This is not good enough, though it is a common cop out in discussions about law, including those by lawyers. See the Lightbulb simplification, for example, here: Fox in Socks: A parable for 30 years of IP for IT.
All up, Lightbulb gives the report a pass mark, maybe six out of 10.
Graphic: computer illustration by PC Roxana Gonzalez from Flickr.