The Information Society: From Gutenberg to S.W.I.F.T.

Wriston, Walter B.


The second element, that of security, is fundamental to any international financial network but that, too, deteriorates when we are forced to use PTT or common carrier services. The cost of making security double-checks becomes prohibitive especially when charged on a per-message basis rather than on a flat-rate lease. There are also government efforts to forbid private operators to use encryption techniques superior to those used by the government regulators. Sovereigns have a legitimate worry about encrypted traffic moving across their borders although this has been done by foreign embassies since codes were invented. The end result is a system that costs more, loses value and timeliness and customers.

Such a system can also increase a corporation's liability for any error in a transmission of data or a transfer of payments, and this also can needlessly complicate legal contracts for certain types of automated services.

Since we have a common stake in the free flow of information, our common strategy should be to seek some reasonable limitations on the scope of PTT monopolies. And we can do this very effectively by stressing the security of private-leased networks and their flexibility of pricing-areas in which the PTTs in the past have demonstrated little inclination to compete. Our task is to make the public-and our customers-understand what is at stake.

There is reason for hope in some recent events. The agreement between Canada and the United States a month or so ago to permit the use of domestic satellites for trans-border data services is a step in the right direction. Another encouraging sign is the increasing competition taking place in Britain between its own PTT and private domestic services. Moreover, as the number of regional satellites-like the one linking the Arab world-increases, the opportunities multiply for the expansion of competing services.

  • The document was created from the speech, "The Information Society: From Gutenberg to S.W.I.F.T.," written by Walter B. Wriston for the S.W.I.F.T. Conference SIBOS '82 on 23 September 1982. The original speech is located in MS134.001.005.00004.
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