December 29, 2009 12:00AM
Innovations to spread as US cedes control over internet.
THE next decade could see the US lose its title as the world's technology headquarters.
All major technology innovation in recent history has emerged from the US, supported by the world's finest education, innovation and commercialisation industries.
The rise of internet giants such as Google, eBay, Amazon, and Facebook has been well helped by the US's control over the regulation of the internet addressing system over the past 11 years.
This required the use of Latin characters in internet addresses, hindering the spread of the internet in places such as China, Russia and the Middle East.
There is only 15 per cent internet penetration in Asia compared with 75 per cent in the US, according to Paul Levins, the executive officer and vice-president, corporate affairs at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
However, this is poised to change after a major shake-up of ICANN's management structure in late 2009, when the US gave up control. ICANN also agreed to introduce internet addresses that could be fully written in non-Latin characters. Stakeholders from around the world agreed to replace the US-controlled management structure with a global model, where decisions would be co-ordinated by government-selected review teams.
Levins, who represented the ICANN's interests when the new structure was formulated, says the deal shows that the internet is no longer controlled by the US.
"Review teams around the globe keep the organisation accountable rather than having one government, in the shape of the US, providing that accountability," Levins says.
"What it really does is declare once and for all that the internet is not controlled by anyone."
He says the changes could promote internet innovations from China, Russia and the Middle East.
"You don't have to look very far to see where growth will come from in the very short-term future," he says. "That's going to dramatically grow over the next decade.
"It will be very Asian-centric and Middle Eastern-centric and African-centric. All these countries that have not been front and centre in online statistics you'll see growing dramatically."
New ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom will play an important role guiding this growth.
The European Union's competition arm has also worked to end US control over the technology industry, successfully pursuing anti-trust cases against technology behemoths Microsoft and Intel.
The action, which has returned billions of euros in fines, was led by EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes who has established an important precedent for other regulators.
Emboldened by its early wins, the EU has started to pursue more meaningful outcomes, such as requiring Microsoft to actively promote alternative internet browsers. These regulatory moves to strengthen global competition could also hasten the expansion of technology industries around the world, especially in developing countries such as India and China.