IISE Column: 20th Anniversary of C&C Prize Awards
Yoshihiro SUZUKI (Vice-Chairman, Institute of International Socio-Economic Studies)
This is an English translation of Mr. Suzuki's column on the homepage of the Institute of International Socio-Economic Studies (www.i-ise.com), February 15, 2005.
This years' C&C Prize Award ceremony was held at Hotel Okura on January 16. The recipients were Dr. Zenichi Kiyasu, former Professor of Tohoku University, Dr. John Hennessey, current President of Stanford University and Dr. David A. Patterson, Professor of the University of California at Berkeley. The recipients delivered their acceptance speeches after the award ceremony in front of the full-house audience.
The C&C Prize Awards are one of the main activities of the "C&C Foundation," which was founded for the dissemination of the idea of C&C (Integration of Computers and Communications) and its social applications and contributions, originally announced by NEC Chairman Koji Kobayashi 27 years ago. This year's event marked the 20th anniversary of the awards, which are to recognize pioneering contributions to the development of C&C. So far there have been 61 Japanese as well as non-Japanese recipients, including such world-renowned figures as Dr. Lawrence Hyland, Dr. Jerome Wiesner, Dr. Alan Kay, Dr. Gordon Moore, Mr. Shuji Nakamura, Dr. Tadao Umesao, Dr. Toshiyuki Sakai, Dr. Yasuharu Suematsu and many others who subsequently received prestigious awards in Japan and overseas.
We, the C&C Foundation-affiliated members, are truly grateful to all the recipients, who in spite of their busy schedules have actually attended award ceremonies and honorably received the C&C Prizes. Although the Prizes are not so well known and carry a relatively small amount of prize money, they seem to be gaining higher recognition in the field of info-communications, as evidenced by more participants in the award ceremonies and receptions in recent years.
In this year's ceremony, Professor Patterson gave a quite interesting speech, entitled "C&C in the 20th and 21st century." He said that in the 20th century cheaper and faster C&C were valued, benefiting more and more people and transforming social structures, while creating a variety of problems. C&C in the 21st century should grow larger by solving those problems, where key concepts include security, privacy, usability and reliability. They should be as secure as good banks, as usable as the radio, and as reliable as the telephone in the 20th century. To achieve these goals it is necessary to educate and train human resources through interaction among industry, academia and government. In reality, still less than 5% of the world's population has been exposed to C&C, particularly its weaknesses. If, however, we can overcome those weaknesses and develop C&C to benefit the rest of the world's population, C&C will certainly become a new, mainstream industry for the 21st century, according to Professor Patterson.
At the reception after the award ceremony, a number of past recipients celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Awards. It turned out to be not only a joyful occasion, but also a very meaningful event.
Some participants candidly pointed out that Japan seemed to face a serious challenge of educating and training human resources. While the U.S. is maintaining its vitality by competition among people with different cultural backgrounds, Japan remains a homogeneous society. Japan's representative universities in particular often keep their graduates and give out degrees to them by themselves, resulting in a uniformly homogeneous academic society. Quite surprisingly, for the past ten years there has been a sharp drop in the enrollment of students in the field of C&C, and even a minimum requirement of class enrollment cannot be met in some cases these days.
The C&C industry itself may be at least partially responsible, as it is no longer attractive as an industry. Its stock prices seem stagnant, and its vitality is said to be lost. Students on the job market are quite sensitive to this kind of situation.
If this continues, Japan will not assume a leading position in the C&C field, which should be the main stream for the 21st century. Up until the 1990s, Japan had been a winner in the global market at least in some sectors such as DRAM semiconductors. The C&C industry is proliferating and diversifying itself, as it is progressing. It is changing "qualitatively," as Professor Patterson said in his speech.
Japan should carefully assess such changes to find a strategic position to gain comparative advantage over other countries. In fact, Japan does have a dominant position in terms of technology and business in the areas of digital appliances such as digital cameras, DVD and liquid crystal TV, game machines and supercomputers. Japan's industrial structure should be reformed to incorporate these strengths for the development of C&C in Japan. Although the Japanese government launched the e-Japan initiative in 2000, it was too domestically oriented and lacked international perspectives. What we need now is collaboration among industry, academia and government in this field. We wish to hear the C&C recipients' joy rather than grief concerning Japan's C&C industry in the future.