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If any industry is likely to profit from the current turmoil it will be our ICT industry. Our industry is based on change and innovation, and in the past it has more than often been hampered by the conservative attitudes of the vested interests and by the incumbency of old and archaic systems and structures. The ICT industry thrives best in a disruptive environment, where many aspects of the society and the economy are pushed to the brink and action becomes vital.

Those affected by the current turmoil (and who is not?) should make change their objective and get on with the job. It should be seen as an opportunity, not as a threat.

ICT is not the solution to the current problems, but none of the present problems can be resolved without our industry, and we therefore will play a pivotal role in the process of social and economic recovery.

The list of disruptive changes has never been so long and so complex. It includes:

  • Environmental issues

  • Climate change

  • Water shortage

  • Food prices

  • Finance collapse

  • Energy crisis

  • Shortage of people skills

  • Telecoms transformation

  •  

    Most governments accept that it is the infrastructure projects that will form the basis of the economic stimulation packages, and trillions of dollars will be poured into these. It is now up to our industry to build strong cases to push ICT into the foreground of these new investments.

    Global cooperation and collaboration are going to be essential to move forward; we see this at the G7 and G20 summits, and also within our own environment. The Obama Team has clearly indicated that it seeks international cooperation at all levels and I am already very actively involved in the telecoms transformation discussions that are taking place in the USA.

    At a conference in Canberra last week Smart Grid Australia decided that the activities taking place in America, Europe and Australia need to be better integrated. In the utilities industry in particular pilot mania has broken out, with virtually every energy utility around the globe testing the same things with practically no collaboration and coordination.

    It is crucial that we stop procrastinating, embrace change and start moving forward.

    This cannot be done without a genuine attempt by everyone involved to work together, leaving aside past differences. Governments and businesses need to combine their efforts as well - one thing that has become clear is that regulations do have a place in promoting and protecting the national interest.

    Some of the 'change' reports that we are discussing with our American colleagues include:

    Global - Investing in the Communications Revolution

     

    "We feel that the audience in this channel which is particularly women, is not often addressed this directly by the automakers," says AOL spokeswoman Lori Dolginoff. The travel category has also performed well - advertisers include Spirit Airlines and Interacontinental Hotels. The home and kitchen sections have outperformed some of the other areas on Latino, she says.

     

    Yahoo! targets Hispanics in the United States primarily through Yahoo! En Español, although it also sees traffic from U.S. Hispanics on its other sites - Yahoo! Argentina, Mexico, and Spain. "We can slice-and-dice traffic to all four individually or sell [in the] aggregate when we can," says Liz Sarachek, executive director of sales at Yahoo! En Español. Sarachek points to a 10 percent annual increase in Hispanics online as a sure sign that the Web is taking share from other media. Offering the market a choice in Web sites is key, she says, since not all Hispanics want everything in Spanish.

     

    "Out of 13.8 million Hispanics, English is preferred by 7.6 million, and another 3.9 million are bilingual," Sarachek says. "Language really comes into play, and you have to be cognizant of that when you're planning a marketing campaign."

     

    Sarachek says Yahoo! portals offer a great deal of entertainment content for Hispanic women like Launch En Español, a dedicated music site. "We're seeing Hispanics doing a lot of downloading and streaming of music and ring tones online," she says. "A lot of these households now have broadband; they're very tech-savvy. I think it's an undervalued market," she adds.

     

    The Players Sonora and Sarachek both say that, while things have improved, getting advertisers to rearrange their marketing plans to include a Hispanic component is still a challenge.

     

    "A lot of it right now is still educating and evangelizing," Sarachek says. "It's an exciting time, the buzz is out there and we're getting more Hispanic requests than ever."

     

    Sonora points to companies like Avon and Sears as two that have done a good job awakening to the Hispanic market reality particularly where women are concerned. "Sears has turned the corner pretty much," she says, alluding to the fact that the retailer runs Hispanic-targeted advertising, has revamped the look of its stores and merchandise. Last fall, Sears announced that nearly 100 of its stores would be revamped to appeal more to "multicultural" shoppers. That included the addition of new apparel brands with more crossover appeal, as well as dedicated signage in markets known to have larger Hispanic populations.

     

    Sonora says the signage issue is a big deal; she expects to see more bilingual point-of-purchase displays in the future. "Hispanic families shop as a unit," she says. "You have to make sure grandmother can read [the signage] as well as the teen daughter."

     

    But quickie translations may not always cut it, she cautions.

     

    "Retailers have to take the tiny bit of extra effort to use regional terms and know cultural differences," Sonora says, using the example of the word "truck." West of the Mississippi, it's troca; east of the Mississippi it's camion. Marketers overlook such linguistic subtleties at their own peril and risk alienating shoppers if they're not sensitive to these realities.

     

    Outlook Yahoo!'s Sarachek projects anywhere from 25 percent to 50 percent growth in ad spending by marketers targeting the diverse Hispanic marketplace; she estimates 10 percent to 20 percent annual growth for Hispanics online.

     

    Sonora expects to see more companies "doing their homework" to appeal to Hispanics and Hispanic women, in particular. "Some of it, like what Sears is doing, is as simple as the signage and using brighter colors and trendier fashions to appeal to a diverse population," she says, adding that such overt displays can inform the consumer about a broader corporate mandate."


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