Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460 - 473)

WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2000

MR DEREK WYATT, MP AND MR MARK ADAMS

  460. In which countries in the EU do you regard the governments as being most in tune with the changes in policy you would like to see?
  (Mr Adams) I think we would say as one voice the Nordic countries.
  (Mr Wyatt) Principally, and I do not want to offend them, essentially they are city states. They are smaller, very middle class, very high income and very high ownership. To be honest, if you take Nokia, for instance, it is working so closely with the Government, it is the most amazing relationship. Like Singapore, these are city states. In a sense Australia, Melbourne gets it quickly but, again, it is a city state in a way. It is much harder when it is a larger country or has huge numbers of people, which is our problem.
  (Mr Adams) I think there is an attitude as well if you look at Canada and Australia. I would class South Africa, too, as an interesting example where there is a character about the nation which again is something I wish we could define, it is one that says "let us not question too much, let us decide instead to move ahead and make progress". That attitude means when I am in South Africa and I am in Johannesburg in the offices of the company I have been with for 18 years, I see them reading their on-line newspapers and I see them having all the printed daily newspapers in a pile on the floor and I go back to my United Kingdom office and I see them sitting there reading the papers and I think in the South African culture they just use on-line as if it is part of life. There is something about South Africa, Canada and Australia that they have just got it. There is something that you see in the United Kingdom time and again that says we have not quite got it. Is it reserve or is it caution or is it fear? These things we must try to identify and resolve. It is a very tough job.

  Baroness O'Cathain: Indolence.

Chairman

  461. So if you are taking your chart and numbers out of ten, you are putting the Scandinavian countries at the top with Canada and Australia, ahead of the States?
  (Mr Wyatt) The States is bitty. It is good in parts.
  (Mr Adams) I think most definitely yes in one sense, because of their use of the mobile. Look at DoCoMo in Japan and how people walk around every day with telephones connected to a 9,600 board, an extremely slow speed, but they use the phones for extremely silly things like sending messages with smiley faces, like the Japanese are extremely famous for doing and yet it somehow engages people, people like doing that. It has no great purpose but they like it. That mobile communication, the way it engages people, is a critical difference, as I am sure you know by now, between the two continents. That is a supreme hallmark where we do have a different approach in Europe which is very positive.

  462. So you are putting the Scandinavian countries ahead of the States, as you see it?
  (Mr Wyatt) I would say Sweden and America are very similar currently. I am not so familiar with Denmark and Norway, but Finland is very high on that list.

  463. You mentioned the nature of the relationship in Finland between the industry and the government and the nature of the relationship in the States is quite different, is it not?
  (Mr Wyatt) Fundamentally different. That is why it is more difficult to say how strong America is. It is strong in various sectors and parts but it is also very weak with Caribbean Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, very low ownership and use.

  464. What we are seeking to understand is the nature of the way that policies develop on these issues in different countries in particular with regard to Europe and how it is co-ordinated. Finland is quite different from the States.
  (Mr Wyatt) I think it is the community. The community is more intelligent and closer. When I say "more intelligent" I mean in the sense of intelligence, it is closer, it is a smaller environment.
  (Mr Adams) There is also an economic imperative that the large companies in those countries are mobile telecom companies, Ericsson and Nokia are 60 per cent of the Helsinki stock market. The whole government has got to make that company work. The same applies in Sweden.

Viscount Brookeborough

  465. We have been told that it is the reluctance of our population and the ageing population to actually use computers. It has also been suggested that Europe will be ahead of the USA on interactive digital televisions. If they come in in about five years' time do you see a sudden increase in the number of people who use computers, even older people who are more used to watching television in that if they are given a box they will play with it and become used to it?
  (Mr Wyatt) I think we can hold our head up and say that the Symbion Project, which is led by Psion and has Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Panasonic in it, is going to start off this process all over again—it is voice activated—once you do not have to type, once you can say to the television set "please send this e-mail to mum. Hi, mum, how are you, love dad", or whoever, if you could say to this book "hello, take a letter". This is not via voice, this is not IBM's clunky stuff, this is really nimble voice data identification. This is just mind blowing. If you add that to the fact that the Teledesic network of McCaw and Gates will go out maybe at the end of this year, certainly by Easter of next year, that is 300-odd low orbit satellites which is mobile internet, goodness me, that means anything you have on you, a pen, a watch, your mobile, whatever it is, is connected. I cannot get my brain around that.

  Baroness O'Cathain: I do not want to.

Viscount Brookeborough

  466. Therefore, do you not think that our worry at the moment is not misplaced but is unnecessary because it will change in a different way?
  (Mr Wyatt) I saw some of the Teledesic team last August in Phoenix and I said to them "do you talk to Government?" and they said "Government?" I said "yes" and they asked why. I said "do you think we should put the social security thing up there and access it?" and they said "goodness me, social security". I said "it is pretty obvious, is it not, if you have got the data up there we can access it". It had not occurred to them that there was actually a Government need, they were thinking military and they were thinking business and obviously consumer. I think that goes back to a point I made earlier. In the way in which Government runs there is no innovation minister whose role is not to make policy, not to run around on committees, but just to listen and just to be in the Teledesic office in Seattle, in Phoenix, just to see the Symbion and say "Prime Minister, this week I have done this and this, can I tell you this is its impact for our country and our policy". We are reactive all the time and that is my worry.

Chairman

  467. This is Teledesic?
  (Mr Wyatt) Yes.

  468. We will make a note of that.
  (Mr Wyatt) Their European office is in Waterloo. I have their address and e-mail if you wish.

  469. It would be helpful if you could let us have that. Finally, when you wrote the later paper, Mr Adams, you stated: "In regards to democracy, the true test of the Internet will come in this year's US presidential elections, but we hope to see that it will enhance participation by citizens in the democratic process, with all the social benefits that this brings." What do you anticipate is going to happen that will be different?
  (Mr Adams) The decline of citizens' trust in their institutions is a matter of record and it is a matter of great concern to me. I believe that trust in Government and the operation of Government will be enhanced as people find that they can have a voice and do have a role. That leads to greater civil stability and a society at ease with itself.

  470. What do you envisage happening that will be different using the internet?
  (Mr Wyatt) I was in Washington two weeks ago looking at the McCain and Bush activities and Gore and Bradley. With McCain, on a daily basis he was raising about $15,000 an hour off his website.

Viscount Brookeborough

  471. It did not do him much good though.
  (Mr Wyatt) Before the website there would not have been a way for the whole of America to participate in a primary in a single state. That changed all the rules of engagement. He should have been long gone in conventional political terms almost before the first primary but actually that enabled him to stay longer and almost, to be frank, upset a candidate who was blessed, anointed, with $70 million. As well as that it also meant that each of the states had to engage with the rest of the states in their primaries. That was a first. So each primary was more like a mini national election. That was fundamentally different. That will change again, I think, in quantum leaps between now and November.

Lord Sandberg

  472. You do not think that was exaggerated by the fact that I know they did raise that sort of amount of money, which was very good? I am just wondering what proportion of the population was really involved in that, five per cent?
  (Mr Wyatt) As you know, McCain struck a chord with people who had never voted before.

  473. I know, but I still do not think it was very large, making some money out of those five per cent of the electorate.
  (Mr Wyatt) No, but it is not a comparator unfortunately, the primaries are closed and open and it is more complex. I do not think we have got the knowledge yet to be able to come to a firm conclusion.

  Chairman: Thank you, that is a useful point at which for us to conclude. Thank you very much for your submissions and thank you for coming.





 
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