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Rauni Hagman: Entering the 2010s

As we enter the new decade, general interest has turned to predicting future trends. The prospects for the development in communication technologies and services are particularly fascinating.

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Development of communications technologies and services

As we enter the new decade, general interest has turned to predicting future trends. The prospects for the development in communication technologies and services are particularly fascinating.

During the past decade, we have witnessed the rapid evolution of wireless communications and the Internet. When we need to reach people, we could give them a ring as we used to, but nowadays we just as likely to send an e-mail, an instant message or post information about ourselves on social media websites. It is no longer a question about communication between people; this is interaction in networks. Search engines, in turn, produce and organise information for us on anything and everything. In addition to people, machines and various systems also communicate, and in the future even interact, over the Internet.

As the boundary between targeted and mass communication becomes blurred, the division between communication infrastructure and services also becomes redundant. Networks, terminals and various application services are all “smart” now. The infrastructure and services on which electronic communications rely upon are global, and they are often delivered as a cloud: large data centres dispersed across a wide geographical area provide the most inexpensive production and best protection against failures. Cloud services also allow for obtaining application and capacity services directly over the Internet, so software development and, for example, the scaling and maintenance of the server base remain the service provider’s responsibility.

Naturally, physical networks and computer rooms are still needed. The demand for fibre-optic broadband and high-speed wireless networks is constantly increasing. Public administration and corporate services are made available online and communications connections should be accessible regardless of time and place. As companies making network investments will want to see return on their capital, new types of earnings models need to be considered.

Most online services are free, a situation consumers are now used to. Telecom operators charge customers for subscriptions and calling minutes or for data either per time unit or, as is now usually the case, a fixed rate based on the capacity of the bandwidth. In content service development, however, no new hit products have emerged as yet in terms of earnings models. The growth of online advertising may be exponential, but the revenue it creates is channelled mainly to the search engine operators rather than traditional media companies.   Because the functioning of society and business is largely based on exploiting information systems and networks, network and service failures in everything from energy production, and traffic systems to financial and health care systems may paralyse companies and even entire countries with dramatic repercussions. Preventing and solving data security problems related to disruptions in communications networks and data transmission and processing require an increasing amount of attention and measures.

The reality of information society development

The objective of the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority is to support the development of the information society and to guarantee versatile, effective and secure communications connections and services for everyone in Finland. The focus of our operations is to benefit the public, enhance the competitiveness of business and industry and to secure the functioning of society.   Finland aims to be among leading countries in information society development. This aim cannot be achieved unless the network infrastructure and services are developed with the user perspective and practical realities in mind.

Active competition ensures that companies are willing to invest and that their operations are constantly developed. In areas where the markets alone do not generate sufficient service provision, authorities need to step in to guarantee that all members of the public are in an equal position. Public authorities should also have as up-to-date and comprehensive information as possible about the current status of communications networks and any disruptions they might be affected by. Providing accurate information of the overall status of networks requires close co-operation and a shared intent between the authorities and companies.

The process of making public services electronically available is underway but the practical execution will take time, which is something that those in charge of drawing out information society strategies tend to forget. The compatibility of communications connections and services is a prerequisite for their extensive use. If the amount of money that has so far been invested in various information system projects had been used according to a comprehensive preconceived plan, it would have provided us with a state-of-the-art electronic communication infrastructure. However, as we can no longer restart the development from a clean slate, it becomes crucial to take stock and find out what kind of acquisitions have in fact been made and how they could be used to contribute to achieving the common goal. We naturally need to invest in the new, but we should also be able to make best possible use of the old.

Rauni Hagman is Director-General of the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority. She has held the position since 2001. Among her other positions, she has previously served as Director at the Finnish Competition Authority.  

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