But these expectations are not shared by all. Some observers extrapolate from today's experiences with computers and related technology, and they are more circumspect in their outlook on the future. The current generation of technology, they say, has yet to be domesticated, and, for now, the need for new types of applications and information services may be greatly overestimated.
Colloquium participants offered their own assessments of the nation's information future, with many generally endorsing measures to build a nationwide information infrastructure. Some described an advanced infrastructure as essential to the nation's economic development. James Fischer of Andersen Consulting suggested, for example, that as the web of computing and communication networks grows, the number and magnitude of the potential benefits also grow. As an enabler of innovation, integration can confer advantages to a single company, he said, "but it also is the basis to give a group of companies some advantage, and then industries, and ultimately, I would assert, the national economy." Other speakers predicted a similar cascading of benefits in education, health care, government operations, entertainment, and numerous other areas of social, organizational, and personal activity.
In Japan and Europe, government and industry appear to find the prospective payoffs more compelling than do their U.S. counterparts, according to Robert Martin of Bellcore and several other speakers. Indeed, Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry has estimated that, by the year 2020, the country's planned information network will undergird a full third of its economy.2 Current activities there and in Europe are creating a political and economic environment that "encourages cross-industry cooperation" on planning and building an infrastructure for the information age, Martin said. Japan and the European Economic Community, he added, are "spending more than twice as much per capita as the United States to upgrade their infrastructures. Each has sponsored cooperative, precompetitive research to define the infrastructure."3
While overseas activities may eventually yield returns that could help foreign competitors eclipse the U.S. leadership in systems integration, colloquium participants were most troubled by the nation's complacency about the role of information technology in its future. With the exception of the HPCC program, neither U.S. government nor U.S. industry has contemplated an initiative to harness the evolving technology to bolster the nation's economy, improve the performance of its institutions, and better the lives of its citizens. A study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released in October 1991 offers some encouragement, because it both articulates the importance of information infrastructure and considers a range of relevant issues from a public policy perspective.4 The issues involved are numerous and complex, and many, such as concerns