Look to the Far East for Net innovation



John Riley

When we think of smart technology and innovation we naturally think of the US and Silicon Valley. But the Far East is taking a lead in key emerging Internet technologies and, more importantly, in innovative ways of using these technologies.

Japan, for example, is considered to be three years ahead in certain areas, such as use of mobile technology and the use of the Internet in business. It leads, for example, in ordering goods using wireless application protocol phones, and in point-of-sale kiosks.

Cultural barriers to entrepreneurial attitudes in Japan are fast breaking down. It's no longer career limiting to join start-ups.

Venture capital now focuses on growth potential rather than pure credit-worthiness. Easier and cheaper Web access is boosting demand for online services and NTT's i-mode Web phone service is a huge success. The real innovation, however, is not in the technology but how it is used.

The Japanese shrink from divulging credit card details over the Web. So while ordering goods through Web kiosks they prefer cash-on-delivery or collecting from the store. This model offers confidence and trust to encourage fast consumer take-off, and it also keeps personal customer relationships. For true next generation innovation we need to look east, not west.

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