equivalent to universal telephone access contend that a national information infrastructure is vital to the nation's economic competitiveness.
"I believe the broader issue is to change the concept of a system to a highly networked distributed base," Martin said. "You would then have an education network that could bring the appropriate educational talent to the disabled, the gifted, or the average student. You would have a very different form of health system."
Such thinking is not confined to the United States. In Europe and Japan, government and industry are funding collaborative research and development projects to address the technological hurdles that must be overcome to develop an infrastructure and the services it would support. The Japanese and European governments are also fostering development of key standards for achieving compatibility and interoperability. Several European nations have implemented accelerated schedules for installing the digital networks and common channel signaling necessary for ISDN service. In Japan, the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Co. has announced its intention to develop the most advanced telecommunications system in the world. By 1995, it intends to offer ISDN service in all 56 Japanese cities, and by the year 2015, it will link all homes by optical fiber.8 At the same time, Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has initiated a series of programs designed to integrate its computer, telecommunications, and other information-related industries and to network its society. Recently announced initiatives include research and development projects on interoperable database systems and improved graphical user interfaces, modeling studies of "information age cities," and several cooperative research programs aimed at helping developing countries build their own information networks.9
Colloquium participants did not see U.S. government and industry as attending to the nation's information infrastructure with the same levels of determination and comprehensiveness as those exhibited in Japan and Europe. Virtually all endorsed administration and legislative proposals calling for the creation of a National Research and Education Network (NREN), an information "superhighway" that eventually would transmit data at rates of several billion bits per second, or more than 1,000 times faster than today's standard data networks. As proposed, NREN would connect the nation's universities and collaborating companies. The administration's initiative, called the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program, would provide a focal point for developing the hardware, software, and systems that a truly national information infrastructure will require. (See Chapter 4 for a discussion of the HPCC program.)
Indeed, whether practiced on the scale of a single company or on the scale of an entire nation, systems integration poses a variety of technical, social, economic, and regulatory issues, which are examined in the next chapters.