An IT-based economic recovery plan

An economic recovery plan that places greater emphasis on technology could make meaningful improvements in the efficiency of the nation's utility grids, traffic management, food distribution, water conservation and health care systems, according to IBM chief executive Samuel J. Palmisano.

Palmisano notes that technology trends such as radio frequency identification, transistors, sensors and links to the Internet in items such as cars, appliances, roadways and utility wires will make his proposal possible and affordable. These technologies link items over the Internet and can communicate with supercomputing data centers, he said.

Click here for full text of Palmisano's Nov. 6 remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations

For example, Palmisano said energy can be saved and better utilized with computerized grids, thermostats and appliances that can sense and communicate line failures or automatically turn off air-conditioners during peak load times to save money and fuel. Today 67 percent of electrical energy is lost because of inefficient power generation and grid management, while congested highways cost $78 billion a year in squandered working hours and fuel burned, noted the article.

These types of projects are a good way to improve the economy by providing a foundation for innovation and growth across industries, said some economists and policy experts.

Palmisano compared today's economic issues with those of the Great Depression or after World War II in the Times. New Deal programs of the 1930s that brought electrical service to much of the country also brought electricity to factories, eliminating the need for them to build their own power plants, he said. After World War II the government's construction of a national highway system helped create larger markets for goods, he added.

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, said in the same article, that applying more computing intelligence to help transform fields like transportation, energy and health care will be 'critical to solving an array of pressing public problems.'

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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