many of these new technologies, the United States must now build on a rapidly aging (by the standards of information technology development today) foundation. The huge installed technology base is both an engine for current activities and a constraint on the development and implementation of new technologies; obtaining the benefit of the new with minimal disruption to ongoing activities that depend on the old is no small challenge.
One important factor in the evolution of information infrastructure is the body of U.S. telecommunications regulations. Colloquium participants observed that those regulations may not have kept pace with changing technologies and industry boundaries. In particular, the proliferation of digital technology into communications results in an effective convergence of computing, communications, and entertainment (programming) industries that raises new questions about fairness, competitive conduct, and other concerns long addressed through telecommunications regulations.
As the predominantly digital technologies essential for systems integration continue to mature, the focus of activity in systems integration may shift from creating a solution to a problem to engineering that solution. This change in focus may allow foreign competitors who excel in engineering and implementation but not necessarily in devising innovative solutions an opportunity to enter the systems integration market. U.S. systems integration firms thus should not be content with being first to market, nor sanguine in their belief in the "American" nature of the industry. U.S. high-technology industries are rife with instances in which American leadership was supplanted by superior production from abroad. Moreover, colloquium participants observed that foreign countries, most notably Japan and countries in Western Europe, have been developing their information infrastructures with greater levels of determination and comprehensiveness than those exhibited thus far in the United States.
To date, systems integration has been a success story. It is time that government, industry, and academia collectively acknowledge the value of systems integration and act to assure the ongoing vitality and competitiveness of U.S. technical and commercial activities in systems integration.