FRAMINGHAM, 27 OCTOBER 2009 - Bucharest, Romania Against a background of economic and political crisis, the 18th annual Global Forum this week met in Eastern Europe for the first time.
The prestigious technology policy and development meeting emphasized the economic potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to pull the world into recovery. The conference also underscored ICT's power to reinforce democratic movements in Eastern Europe and globally that are still experimental and potentially unstable.
Called "the Davos of IT," Global Forum's annual themes often track world trends in the information and communication industries. Attracting invited participants from 35 countries, conference panelists repeatedly emphasized this year's theme, "ICT and the Future of Internet: Opportunities for Stimulating and Reshaping the Economy."
The 2009 Global Forum was in part sponsored by the Office of the President of Romania and the nation's Ministry of Communications and Information Society. The head of state, President Traian Băsescu, addressed the delegates on the importance of information and communication technology to the future of his country and the region. Yet he cautioned that the industry must safeguard information integrity given widespread mistrust of state agencies and private enterprise institutions.
Băsescu said estimates of ICT impact on the Romanian economy showed it stimulates 4 per cent of GDP savings annually through electronic payments; makes tax evasion difficult; and can result in a 10 per cent to 15 per cent decrease in the gray economy.
However, ICT providers and governments must assure both transparency and trust for end users, he said. Băsescu declared that given his country's prior history of governmental intrusion in personal affairs, citizens are rightly skeptical of providing ICT information, no matter how benign the application.
Băsescu spoke against a background of political crisis in Romania, as a parliamentary deadlock has resulted in calls for formation of a new government and the appointment of a new prime minister, the operational leader of government here. United States Vice President Joe Biden also visited the region this week to demonstrate American commitment to the region and its security.
President Băsescu also pointed out that the commitment to democracy may also be more compelling among the people of Eastern Europe, given that they have lived under repressive governments longer in modern times than people in more established democratic countries. Open governments with empowered people are more unusual, and more precious, he suggested, to people who have been deprived of them for long periods of their history.
Another notable plenary speaker was American ambassador Mark Gitenstein. Appointed by Barak Obama and in office in Bucharest only since July 2009, he is the first Romanian-American ever to serve in the position. Gitenstein said ICT is the economic engine that will propel continuing prosperity, especially here.
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