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《The Economist》《经济学人》中文版
Translated From 《The Economist》,By ecocn team http://www.ecocn.org
乙醇和水:新型燃料2008-03-04[2008.03.01] Don't mix别搞混了
Ethanol and water 乙醇和水

Don't mix别搞混了
Feb 28th 2008 | MIAMI
From The Economist print edition

New reasons to be suspicious of ethanol
OFFICIALS in Tampa, Florida, got a surprise recently when a local firm building the state's first ethanol-production factory put in a request for 400,000 gallons (1.5m litres) a day of city water. The request by US Envirofuels would make the facility one of the city's top ten water consumers overnight, and the company plans to double its size. Florida is suffering from a prolonged drought. Rivers and lakes are at record lows and residents wonder where the extra water will come from.
佛罗里达州坦帕市的官员们最近不大不小吃了一惊:一家企业要求该市每天向他们供水四十万加仑(一百五十万升)。这家企业(US Envirofuels)正在兴建佛罗里达州第一家乙醇燃料工厂。这一狮子大开口的要求使得该公司一夜之间跻身坦帕市十大用水大户之一。该公司还在计划将工厂扩建一倍。而佛罗里达正在经历一场持续的干旱。境内的湖泊与河流都处在历史最低水位,居民们都在寻思,这四十万加仑的用水缺口从哪里去补。

They are not alone. A backlash against the federally financed biofuels boom is growing around the country, and “water could be the Achilles heel” of ethanol, said a report by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The number of ethanol factories has almost tripled in the past eight years from 50 to about 140. A further 60 or so are under construction. In 2007 President George Bush signed legislation requiring a fivefold increase in biofuels production, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

This is controversial for several reasons. There are doubts about how green ethanol really is (some say the production process uses almost as much energy as it produces). Some argue that using farmland for ethanol pushes up food prices internationally (world wheat prices rose 25% this week alone, perhaps as a side-effect of America's ethanol programme). But one of the least-known but biggest worries is ethanol's extravagant use of water.

A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute. Most of that goes into the boiling and cooling process, which is similar to making beer. Some water is lost through evaporation in the cooling tower and in waste discharge. All this is putting a heavy burden on aquifers in some corn-growing areas.

Residents went to court in Missouri to halt a $165m facility being built by Gulfstream Bioflex Energy LLC which was projected to draw 1.3m gallons of water every day from the Ozark aquifer. Projects are being challenged in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and in central Illinois, where eight ethanol facilities are situated over the Mahomet aquifer. Demand for corn is such that more land is also being ploughed up in drier regions of the Great Plains states to the west of the corn belt, where irrigation in required, increasing water demand further.
在密苏里州,居民们通过法律手段停止了一项Gulfstream Bioflex能源有限公司的价值一亿六千五百万美元的工程,该工程预计每天从Ozark水源地含水层取用一百三十万加仑的水。类似的工程计划在明尼苏达,艾奥瓦,内布拉斯加,堪萨斯以及伊利诺伊斯州都受到了挑战,在这些地方,有八间乙醇工厂就建在Mahomet水源的含水层上。

The good news is that ethanol plants are becoming more efficient. They now use about half as much water per gallon of ethanol as they did a decade ago. New technology might be able to halve the amount of water again, says Mike Fatigati, vice president of Delta-T Corp, a Virginia company which has designed a system that does not discharge any waste water. But others are sceptical. “There are things you can close loop [ie, recycle efficiently] and things you can't,” says Paul Greene, a senior director for biofuels with Siemens Water Technologies, designers of the water-purification technology used in ethanol factories. Perhaps ethanol just isn't as bio-friendly as it looks.
好消息是,乙醇工厂的效率正在不断提高。他们现在只需要十年前一半的水,就能生产一样多的乙醇。弗吉尼亚州的Delta-T公司生产了一种不需要排放废水的新系统,该公司的副总裁Mike Fatigati认为新技术将把水耗再降低一半。不过其他人对此表示怀疑。西门子水源科技公司是乙醇工厂所采用的水净化技术的设计者,该公司资深生物燃料专员Paul Greene就说:“有些东西你的确可以循环使用,有些则是不行的。”有可能乙醇并没有看上去那么环保。
发表于10:55 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享 0互联网可能成为好莱坞的救星2008-02-29[2008.2.21][Briefing]Coming soon 即将来临
Hollywood and the internet
Coming soon即将来临
Feb 21st 2008
From The Economist print edition

The internet could be a boon for Hollywood—but only if it can conquer its fears

TO SEE what the future of film distribution might look like, go to a website called ZML.com. It offers 1,700 films for download to personal computers, iPods or other hand-held devices, or to burn to DVD. It is inviting and easy to use, with detailed descriptions of each movie, editors' picks, customer reviews and screen stills. And the prices are reasonable: “Atonement”, for instance, costs $2.99. There is one small catch: ZML.com is a pirate site. Hollywood's movie studios, which are used to dealing with scruffier crews like Pirate Bay, a Swedish outfit,are aghast at how professional the newcomer is. “It looks like a fabulous legal website,” says one studio executive.
如果你想要知道未来的电影发行将是怎样,可以去这个网站ZML.com。它提供1700部电影可以下载到个人电脑,iPods,手携式的播放装置上,或者可以刻录成DVD。它很诱人也很容易使用,网站上有每部电影的详细介绍,编辑的精选,顾客的评价以及电影剧照。而且价钱也公道,比如说《赎罪》,只要2.99美元。但是这里有个小圈套,ZML.com是个非法网站。好莱坞的电影工作室,以前一直在对付一伙来自瑞典的非法团队,如Pirate Bay,现在好莱坞对ZML.com如此专业的新来者感到惊恐。“它看起来就像是棒极了合法网站。”一位好莱坞的制作人说。

The existence of ZML.com illustrates why Hollywood is in two minds about the web. On the one hand, the internet has brought a potent threat: pirates are plundering films and carrying off booty that rightfully belongs to the studios. Online piracy costs Hollywood less than the physical variety, ripping off DVDs, but the gap is closing. “We are more concerned about internet piracy than physical piracy, because controlling it is harder,” says Ron Wheeler, head of anti-piracy efforts at Fox Entertainment Group. Some in Hollywood believe that internet theft could even be the death of America's film industry.
ZML.com的存在说明了为什么好莱坞对于网络会有两种看法。一方面,互联网带来潜在的威胁:盗版者窃取电影,本属于制作商的电影成了他们的战利品。互联网的盗版比实体DVD盗版少,但是现在这个差距正在缩小。“我们现在更加比实体盗版更注重互联网盗版,因为控制非常的困难。”福克斯娱乐集团反盗版的负责人 Ron Wheeler说。

On the other hand, the internet offers Hollywood a great opportunity—which it has so far been slow to exploit. There is every reason to think that people will want online access to films, just as they do for music, newspapers, television and radio. ZML.com is proving that people will pay to download films to see at home when it suits them. And once people can buy or rent films on demand, the chances are that they will watch more of them.

The web is already making its presence felt in the heart of Tinseltown: this year's Oscars extravaganza, which is due to take place on February 24th, nearly fell victim to a strike by writers over pay for the distribution of their work on the internet. But for the time being Hollywood is mostly stuck in the physical world. Every year it sends thousands of heavy, expensive reels of film to cinemas by road. Only in the past year or so has it started an effort to send out some across the ether as ones and zeros. The DVD is a digital format, to be sure, but it comes in shrink-wrapped plastic.

Some studios are enthusiastic about the internet. “In 2008 we will move full speed ahead online,” says Thomas Lesinski, president of digital entertainment at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles. “It's the great hope for new revenue for the movie business.” But the industry has by and large been slow: studios have only tentatively backed legal online film-download services. Television, by contrast, has been much faster to embrace the internet.
一些制作公司对于网络感到乐观。“2008年我们将全速进军网络。”位于洛杉矶的帕拉蒙特数字娱乐公司的主席Thomas Lesinski说。但是这个产业目前总体上是发展迟缓的:制作公司只是试验性的支持那些网络合法的电影下载服务商。相反,电视比电影更快的接受了互联网。

On the buses在车上

The choice of what is legally available online today is patchy. For instance, London buses are carrying ads for FilmOn.com, a new download service. It promises “tons and tons of great movies”, but you will not find “Mulva 2—Kill Teen Ape!” near the top of many people's lists. The internet has lots of legal sites like this, which promise thousands of top-class titles but in truth resemble the worst shelves of a bad video-rental store. ZML.com has a far better collection than most legitimate services do.
一个新的下载服务商。它承诺将有“非常多的好电影”,但是你会发现“Mulva 2—Kill Teen Ape!”位于许多人观看前几位。网上又很多这样的合法网站,他们承诺将提供成千上万一流的电影下载,但事实上它们提供的片子,相当于最糟糕的电影出租商的最差的片子。ZML.com所收集的电影,远远好过这些合法服务商。

Another legal site, MovieFlix, based in Los Angeles, makes its money from independent films, student movies, straight-to-video titles and other eclectic fare. Its founders, Opher Mizrahi and Robert Moskovits, stay away from Hollywood studios because of their high fees. MovieFlix, which had revenues of $1.2m last year, is rare among download sites: it turns a profit. “We are the cockroaches of this space,” says Mr Mizrahi, “and we are survivors.”
另外一个位于洛杉矶的合法网站MovieFlix,多是通过独立电影,学生电影,不在电影院上演电影和其它折衷性的收费来赚钱。它的创办人,Opher Mizrahi 和 Robert Moskovits,因为昂贵费用而远离好莱坞。去年获得120万美元收益的MovieFlix是仅有的下载网站中盈利的一个。“我们是这个领域的蟑螂” Mizrahi先生说,“我们是幸存者。”

Many better-funded services have fared far worse. Movielink, which the studios themselves set up in 2001, with about $150m of start-up capital, was sold last August to Blockbuster, a video-rental chain, reportedly for less than $20m. CinemaNow, which counts Microsoft and Cisco Systems among its investors, started offering movies online in 1999 and is not yet making a profit, to the surprise of its chief executive, Curt Marvis. Back then, he says, everyone thought that selling films online would be a huge business by now.
许多资金较充足的服务商运行情况更严重。Movielink,这个工作室成立于2001年投入1500万美元的资本,去年八月以少于200万美元出售给一个连锁影碟零售商Blockbuster。对于投资者而言有等同于微软和思科系统的CinemaNow,从1999年来是提供***,但至今没有盈利,这让它的行政总裁Curt Marvis都大吃一惊。他说,那个时候每个人都认为到现在这个时候网上销售电影一定会是一个巨大商机。

Nor are the studios making much money online. They have dozens of deals with internet services around the world. Warner Bros, for instance, supplies small selections of its films to 38 separate digital-distribution services, according to Screen Digest, a research firm in London. In 2006, estimates Screen Digest, online distribution of movies generated a total of $58m in America and western Europe. Screen Digest expects this to rise to $1.2 billion by 2011. But that is still below 5% of its forecast for total home-entertainment revenue.
电影制作公司也并没有从网上获利。他们和全世界很多网络服务商都有生意往来。例如,根据伦敦一家调研公司Screen Digest的调查,华纳兄弟向38个数码化发行服务商提供小部分产品。Screen Digest估计,2006年电影的网上销售在美国和西欧可以获得总数580万美元的收入,它预计,到2011年数额将增长到12亿美元。但这仍然低于对全部家庭娱乐收益预期的5%。

Consumer-electronics firms are longing to supply Hollywood films. According to Screen Digest, online viewing is most likely to take off on services based on their devices. So far, people have been most interested in buying films for gadgets such as Apple's iPod or Microsoft's Xbox 360. Apple's iTunes has captured almost 80% of the download-to-own market; the Xbox has won more than 70% of online rentals.
消费者电子用品公司都希望能够提供好莱坞电影。根据Screen Digest调查,人们观看在线观看电影多缘起于他们手中的设备。目前为止,人们最有兴趣的是因为苹果iPod和微软的Xbox 360这些小玩艺来购买电影。苹果的iTunes掌握了将近80%的个人下载使用的市场,Xbox则赢得了70%的网上出租的份额。

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, everyone was waiting for Apple to announce that iTunes would start selling new movies from all six leading studios. Hitherto, only Disney had granted Apple access to new releases (Apple's chief executive, Steve Jobs, sits on Disney's board); a couple of other studios were giving it older titles. In the event, Apple's deal was disappointing: it got the go-ahead from all the studios only to rent their films, not to sell them. According to a person familiar with the negotiations, however, this was because of the Hollywood writers' strike over new media. Now the studios are waiting to see whether actors walk out over the same issue. When the labour troubles are past, Apple is likely to get a proper download-to-own deal with all six studios. For Hollywood, this would be a big step towards the internet.
一月份在拉斯韦加斯举行的国际消费者电子用品展览中,所有人都在等待苹果公布iTune将开始出售来自六个最顶级的制作商的新电影。迄今为止,仅有迪斯尼一家授予了苹果公司获得最新电影的放映权(苹果公司的行政总裁,Steve Jobs进入了迪斯尼的董事会);

The colour of money金钱的颜色
There are two broad reasons for Hollywood's tardiness. The main one is the industry's aversion to making big changes to its business model. In part this is because it takes so much risk in its day-to-day operations. “Every weekend, we sit on pins and needles watching to see if our films will flop,” explains a studio executive, “and that doesn't encourage risk-taking in the business as a whole.” There is a less defensible explanation too: “Hollywood's value system is not necessarily about growth,” says Dan Jansen, who runs the Boston Consulting Group's media practice. “It's about recognition for films.”
好莱坞的迟缓有两个原因。主要的一个是好莱坞厌恶改变它的商业模式。一部分原因是好莱坞日常运作中已经存在太多的风险。“每个周末,我们都会如坐针毡的看我们的电影是否会失败”电影制作人解释说,“作为整体我们并不鼓励在生意上冒险。”还有不那么辩护性的解释:“好莱坞的价值体系并不是要求一定要成长”波士顿咨询公司负责媒体咨询的Dan Jansen说,“是关于对电影的认可。”

For the moment, most people are still happy with DVDs, so the studios have had little incentive to switch to an unproven new format. The DVD business is huge, bringing in $23.4 billion in America last year, against $9.6 billion from the box office. The studios are terrified of damaging that source of revenue. In 2006, when Disney made a deal with Apple to sell movies via iTunes, Wal-Mart, America's biggest retailer, reportedly threatened to retaliate: the internet, after all, bypasses it. Wal-Mart accounts for about 40% of DVD sales in the United States and if it sharply cut shelf-space for DVDs, the lost sales would far outweigh new digital sales in the near term. At the end of last year Wal-Mart shut its ten-month-old movie-download site. Now that it no longer has a foot in the internet camp, studios expect it to take a harder line against any further efforts they may make to favour online distribution.
目前,很多人满足于有DVD,所以制作公司几乎没有动机去转向另一种未经实践证明的新形式。DVD 的生意是巨大的,给美国去年带来了234亿美元的收入,而票房的收入是96亿美元。制作公司很害怕会破坏这个收入来源,在2006年,当迪斯尼和苹果公司谈生意想通过iTune出售电影时,美国最大的零售商沃尔玛,据报道说它威胁将要报复:毕竟互联网超过了它。沃尔玛在美国的DVD销售中占有40%的份额,如果它锐减DVD 在货架上的销售,在近期内,失去的那些销售额将远远超出新的数码产品的销售。在去年年末,沃尔玛关掉了它仅十个月电影下载网站。现在,再也不再涉足于网络领域,制作公司也希望它对任何支持网络销售的发行采取强硬的态度。

Not everyone agrees, however. Wal-Mart and other big retailers rely heavily on DVDs to bring higher-income people into their stores, says a studio executive. “So they don't have a leg to stand on threatening to pull shelf-space.” For this reason, he believes that Hollywood should be able to cultivate online revenues without greatly disrupting its existing businesses.

In any case, there are now signs that the DVD boom has come to an end—which should also encourage the studios to worry less about Wal-Mart and to move faster online. After its growth slowed in 2005 and 2006, spending on DVDs fell by 3% in 2007 (see chart 1). Some in the industry are pinning their hopes on fancier, “high-definition” discs—another physical format—rather than on the web. But so far, sales of such discs have been minuscule—largely because of a war between two formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray. Although the war ended this week, when Toshiba said it would abandon HD DVD, high-definition discs are unlikely to bring growth back to the home-entertainment business.
不论何种例子,种种迹象显示,DVD 的繁荣已经走向终结----这也促使制作商减少对沃尔玛的担忧并更快的转向网络。2005年和2006年,DVD的销售量开始增长放缓,2007年消费者在DVD上的花费下降了3%(如图一)。行业中的一些人把它们的希望放在更逼真精致和高清晰度影碟上----另外一种物理形式----而不是网络。但是,到目前为止,这类影碟的销售量是很微小的,主要是因为HD DVD和蓝光两种格式之间的竞争。尽管这场竞争在本月届苏,东芝宣布它将放弃HD DVD,高清晰影碟不太可能重新给家庭娱乐的生意带来增长。

Indeed, Hollywood's desire to preserve its existing business rather than embrace a new one echoes its misgivings a few years ago about the DVD itself. In 1997, when the new format was about to be born, three studios, Paramount, Disney and Twentieth Century Fox, came out against it, remembers Warren Lieberfarb, who is widely credited with having fathered the product as it is today. They were worried that selling DVDs for $18 apiece would cannibalise their sales of video cassettes to rental stores for $65 each. None of the three studios is proud of that episode now.
的确,好莱坞渴望维护它现存的生意而不是拥抱新的生意,回应了它几年前对于DVD本身的忧虑。1997年当这种新的形式将要诞生的时候,三个制作公司,帕拉蒙特,迪斯尼和20世纪福克斯都出来反对,如今被视为DVD之父Warren Lieberfarb回忆说。他们担心以18美元一张出售DVD将侵蚀掉它们在零售店录像带的销售,65美元一盒。现在,这三家制作公司没有任何一家为当初的那一幕感到自豪。

Moreover, as well as boosting sales overall, the internet will make it easier for the studios to make money from their libraries—bricks-and-mortar retailers, after all, have limited shelf-space, and mostly stock new releases. Digital sales yield a higher profit margin too. Virtual distribution does away with manufacturing, packaging, transport and inventory costs. At the moment, the studios get $18 per film from a Wal-Mart or a Best Buy and about $16 for a digital sale, but because of the lower costs they make about $3 more on each film when sold electronically.

A bigger risk than angering Wal-Mart is that Hollywood will be undone by internet pirates. Imaginative, reasonably priced legal products are the best antidote to piracy: anti-piracy heads at the studios, indeed, clamour for well stocked, convenient movie-downloading services. Fox's Mr Wheeler says that content owners should offer people “ubiquitous access to our products online at reasonable prices”. Mr Wheeler also hopes that internet-service providers can be drafted into the fight. In November France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, backed a proposal to require ISPs to detect and cut off conspicuous pirates. Britain's government is said to be considering a similar law.

The second reason for Hollywood's sluggishness is that the studios and the consumer-electronics industry have not overcome three technological hurdles. Downloading a film still takes a long time—in America, about 30-40 minutes on average (see chart 2). Movies in high-definition format would take about four times that. But broadband speeds are increasing all the time. In Japan and South Korea it now takes between five and ten minutes to download a film in standard definition.
好莱坞动作迟缓的第二个原因是因为制作公司和数码消费者产业还没有突破三个技术障碍。下载电影还需要很长的时间---在美国平均大约需要30到40分钟 (见图2)。高清晰模式的电影可能需要4倍于此的时间。但是宽频的速度一直在加快。在日本和韩国,现在只要五到十分钟就可以下载一部标准清晰度的电影。

Another obstacle is that most people want to watch films on television, not on personal computers—especially if they have wide, “home-theatre” TV screens. Products connecting PCs and televisions have been available for years but have not caught on, because they are hard to install and operate. That is changing. Apple has just overhauled its linking gadget, Apple TV, to make it easier to use. At the CES in Las Vegas, says Alan Bell, Paramount's chief technology officer, new televisions and set-top boxes that connect directly to the internet were on show, “so the PC is not the bottleneck in getting digital content from internet services to the TV screen that people saw a year ago.”
另外一个障碍就是很多人希望在电视上看电影,而不是在个人电脑上,特别是如果人们拥有宽屏“家庭影院”的电视屏幕。连接电脑和电视的产品几年前就已经有了,但是并没有流行,因为这些仪器很难安装和操作。这一切都在变化,苹果刚刚彻底检修了它的小型连接物件,苹果电视,让它能够很容易使用。在拉斯维加斯的CES,帕拉蒙特的首席技术官Allan Bell说,可以直接和网络连接的新型电视和它的机顶盒已经有售了,“所以电脑不再是从几年前电视从网络获得数码内容的瓶颈了。”

The last hurdle, and perhaps the highest, is the lack of common standards among websites and devices. “Imagine if you went to Wal-Mart to buy a new DVD player and then found that your DVDs from Best Buy didn't work on it,” says Mitch Singer, chief technology officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Movies on the internet, he says, is “a format war on steroids”. Each download store sells different usage rights. Hollywood is trying to do something about this. Late last year a group of studios, retailers and consumer-electronics firms met to discuss an idea of Mr Singer's for a standardised electronic movie product called Open Market. But the talks are at an early stage, and it will be tricky to get companies such as Apple and Microsoft to agree to common standards.
最后一个猛烈冲击,可能也是最大的一个,就是网站和设备之间缺乏一个共同的标准。“想象一下,如果你去沃尔玛买新的DVD播放器,然后发现你从百思买那里买的DVD却没法播放”索尼娱乐的首席科技官员Mitch Singer说。他说,互联网上的电影处于一场“类固醇的格式战”。任何一个提供下载的商铺都出售不一样的使用版权。好莱坞想为此做一些努力。去年年底,一群制作公司,零售商和数码消费者公司开会讨论,Singer先生提出的“开放市场”这个把数码电影产品标准化想法。但是,商谈还在初步阶段,让苹果和微软这样的公司同意使用同样的标准,是有一定难度的。

Hollywood's dealings with the consumer-gadget companies also betray its habitual caution. The studios fear that Apple could become the Wal-Mart of the internet—a giant with power to push them around, continually pressing prices down. Maintaining pricing online is a particular worry. “People think that if it's online it should be free,” says one studio head. One answer to pricing pressure online, though not a complete one, would be to experiment with putting advertisements around films. Last year Paramount gave a selection of films to a service called Joost that streams them free, supported by advertising. Movies are doing very well on the service, says Mr Lesinski. Paramount plans to conduct more online experiments in 2008, he says. The lion's share of its library and all its new releases will be on the internet within a year or two.

Short of selling films on it, Hollywood certainly knows how to use the internet to its advantage. Its use of viral online marketing is one of the most sophisticated of any industry. Jeff Berg, chairman and chief executive of ICM, a talent agency, says that about 8% of the total marketing spending on films goes to the internet; in five years' time, the web will take 20%. Paramount's “Cloverfield”, a low-budget monster movie shot as if by an amateur with a camcorder, earned $40m in its opening weekend in American cinemas last month, crushing the competition. It built its audience on the internet: a mysterious trailer for another, unidentified movie led to a website and started an online treasure-hunt for more clues. Popular movie websites such as aintitcool.com buzzed for months about the mystery film.
尽管不擅长于出售电影,好莱坞显然知道怎样利用互联网来发挥长处。它使用的病毒互联网营销就是所有行业中最复杂的一种。创作公司ICM的主席和首席执行官Jeff Berg说,花在电影上的所有营销中的8%都是在互联网上;在五年的时间里,网络将会占到20%。帕拉蒙特的“苜蓿地”,一部低成本巨片而且仿佛是一个摄像业余爱好者拍摄的片子,上个月在上映的那个周末就在美国赚了4000万美元,闯入了票房竞争。它通过互联网来建立起它的观众:一个接一个的神秘电影预告片,未知的电影指向了一个网站,并且开始了一场在线的寻宝行动以发掘更多的线索。热门的电影网站,例如aintitcool.com,关于这个电影热闹了好几个月。

How the web was won互联网如何取得胜利
Creatively, too, Hollywood is harnessing the internet. Studios are using it to find global pockets of interest. “If there's 1m people around the world who are interested in ice-fishing,” says Jeremy Zimmer, co-founder of United Talent Agency, “we can make a movie for them.” Studios are using their customers' opinions to shape their films. “Snakes on a Plane”, for instance, started off in development as a horror film. As the project got attention online its maker, New Line Cinema, listened, and changed the plot to be more comic in tone. Blowtorch, a young media company making video content for 18- to 24-year-olds, is pushing this further. It will allow audiences to influence its movies via the web. They will be invited to vote on elements of a film's soundtrack, an actor's wardrobe, or even character development.
同样具有创造性的是,好莱坞也控制着互联网。制作公司也利用它寻找全世界人的钱包。“如果全球有100万人对冰上钓鱼有兴趣”联合创作组织的创始人Jeremy Zimmer说,“我们就能为他们制作一部电影。”制作公司利用观众们的想法来塑造他们的电影。如果一个计划引起了网络上的关注,那么它的制造商,New Line Cinema,倾听并改变故事的情节让它在基调上更加具有戏剧性。Blowtorch,这个专门为18到24岁的观众制作节目的年轻的媒体公司还更前进了一步,它让观众们能通过网络去影响电影。观众们被邀请为电影的配乐,演员的服装,甚至人物个性的发展投票。

Don't lose it in your popcorn.ICM's boss believes that the internet will lower barriers to entry for new film-makers. “Sites will spring up specialising in independent films and short movies,” says Mr Berg, “and these will be showcases, similar to film festivals.” Jaman.com, a download service for independent films from around the world, is a good example. The makers of “Indoctrinate-U”, an independent film about a lack of free speech at American universities, have used the internet to build an audience. The movie's website invites people to sign up with zip codes; if enough do, local screenings are arranged. United Talent Agency has set up a special internet unit, UTA Online, to find and develop new talent. The new unit encourages people to get in touch—unheard of in the original “don't call us” business.
别把它丢失在你的爆米花里,ICM公司的老板认为,互联网能够降低新的电影拍摄者的进入门槛。“独立电影和电影短片的网站增长很快”Berg先生说,“网上会有一些电影展示,和电影节差不多。”Jaman.com, 一个全球性的独立电影下载服务网站,就是一个好的例子。独立电影Indoctrinate-U讲述的是美国的大学缺少言论自由,他的导演就是利用网络来建立观众群。这个电影网站要求人们用邮政区号来注册,如果注册数量足够大,就会安排在该地放映这部电影。联合创作组织成立了一个特别的互联网组织,UTA在线,来寻找和发展新的创作人才。新的组织鼓励人们来联系,这是在原本那些常说“不要找我们”的生意里没有听说过的。

In the long term, many people expect that the internet could undermine Hollywood's system of exclusive “windows”. Cinemas get a film to themselves for a period of weeks, then it goes to DVD, then to video-on-demand and online services, then pay-cable television, and so on. And many films are still released in different countries at different times, usually starting in America. The system is a gift to pirates. But the studios are wedded to it, especially the cinema window.

The internet creates immediate global awareness of movies, says Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, a DVD rental-by-mail company, so the studios are increasingly choosing to release films at the same time everywhere. They have already shortened their windows, he says, and that could be a step towards getting rid of them. As people buy home-theatre systems and the convenience of the internet makes it even harder to get people out of their homes, the cinema window will come under ever greater pressure.

It will doubtless take Hollywood a few more years to work out how to deliver films over the internet. Meanwhile, studios and retailers are poised to introduce movie-download kiosks, using flash memory. Several companies, such as MOD Systems, of Los Angeles, have cut download times to a few minutes; Ireland's Porto Media claims a time of 17 seconds. The idea is to put kiosks in such places as shops, airports and petrol stations. Using Porto Media's system, films are downloaded onto a tiny device (pictured) which plugs into dock attached to a television. Kiosks could hold more titles than physical video shops and would never be out of stock. Twentieth Century Fox is looking at several competing kiosks, says Mike Dunn, head of the studio's home-entertainment unit. It will test them this year.
毫无疑问,好莱坞还要花上好几年才能研发出怎样在网上传送电影。同时,制造公司和零售商都准备在推出使用闪存的电影下载亭。其他的公司,例如洛杉矶的MOD系统,已经把下载时间减少到几分钟;爱尔兰的Porto Media声称他们的时间只要17秒。他们的想法是把下载亭诸如商店,飞机场和加油站。使用MOD系统的话,电影可以下载到小型的播放仪器上,并且可以连接到电视上。下载亭可以存放比音像商店更多的电影,并且永远不会缺货。制作公司家庭娱乐组的负责人Mike Dunn说,二十世纪福克斯正在考察几个竞争的下载亭。今年会对他们进行测试。

“The flash-memory-enabled kiosk is an interim solution which overcomes many of the weaknesses of the present model and the current deficiencies of the internet,” says Mr Lieberfarb, who is on the board of MOD Systems. Customers will get used to downloading films and transferring them between devices, which will prepare them for proper online distribution. Kiosks will make money for retailers too, so that they could help the studios keep Wal-Mart and others sweet. That is the kind of careful step forward that even Hollywood can dare to take.

[ 本帖最后由 Dimpler 于 2008-2-29 11:57 编辑 ]
发表于17:20 | 阅读全文 | 评论 0 | 编辑 | 分享 0吸烟:如何挽救10亿生命2008-02-29[2007.02.07] How to save a billion lives 如何挽救10亿生命

How to save a billion lives

Feb 7th 2008 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition
A war against the weed spreads and escalates, though the odds are unequal


EVEN more than tempting liquors like tequila, tobacco is a pleasure that the Old World wishes it had never taken from the New. In 1492, when Christopher Columbus was met by tribesmen with “fruit, wooden spears and certain dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance”, he threw the last gift away. But his shipmates brought home the custom of sucking in the smoke, and the taste spread so rapidly that in 1604 King James I of England was prompted to issue a denunciation of the “manifold abuses of this vile custome”.
烟草,比烈性龙舌兰酒更诱人,但是东半球多么希望它从来没有从美洲引入这一享受。1492年,克里斯托弗·哥伦布 (Christopher Columbus)登上新大陆,当地部落族人把散发独特香味的果子、木剑和干叶子”赠予他,他把那些干叶子统统扔掉了。但他的船员们把吸烟的习惯带回了家,这一风气流传得非常迅速促使1604年英王詹姆士一世(King James I )对“各种形式的放纵这种恶习”发表谴责。

Vile indeed, but habit-forming and therefore lethally dangerous: it cuts short the lives of between a third and half of its practitioners. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), perhaps 100m people died prematurely during the 20th century as a result of tobacco, making it the leading preventable cause of death and one of the top killers overall. Another 1 billion more may die from it in this century if current trends continue unchecked.
吸烟有百害而无一利,但却容易成瘾,因此危害是致命的:吸烟者中三分之一到一半的人寿命缩短。根据世界卫生组织 (WHO)的估计,20世纪可能有1亿人因吸烟而早亡,使吸烟成为一个主要的却是可以避免的死亡因素,成为人类健康一大杀手。

In recent years smoking has been sharply restricted in some unlikely places. In 2004 Ireland amazed the world by successfully imposing a tobacco ban on all workplaces; and at the start of this year, France's café culture suddenly went smoke-free. The draconian curbs introduced by California in 1998 have been followed, at least in part, by well over half America's states. But the number of smokers in China, India and other developing countries is continuing to grow, as addiction spreads faster than information.

Hence the determination of almost everybody involved in global public health to escalate the war on smoking. Over 150 countries have already ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires countries to take a range of anti-smoking measures. Last July negotiators agreed on international norms for banning smoking in public places. Next week they meet in Geneva to discuss a protocol on tobacco smuggling.

由此可见,几乎每一个致力于全球公共健康的人都决心加大禁烟力度。已有150多个国家通过了《烟草控制框架公约》(Framework Convention on Tobacco Control)。该公约要求缔约国采取一系列反吸烟措施。去年7月,各国谈判代表就在公共场所禁烟的国际准则达成一致。下周他们将在日内瓦讨论打击烟草走私的公约。

In addition to new international rules, the WHO is pushing for aggressive policies at the national and local levels. On February 7th Margaret Chan, the WHO's director-general, and Michael Bloomberg, New York's zealously anti-smoking mayor, were due to unveil the most comprehensive survey of tobacco use ever carried out. The venue was fitting. Tom Frieden, the city's health commissioner, notes that the mayor's efforts have reduced smoking among the adults in New York by 20% and among teenagers in public schools by 50%. Mr Bloomberg's private charity, which supports many anti-smoking efforts worldwide, also funded the global survey, known as MPOWER.
除了新的国际准则外,世界卫生组织正在推动更加严厉的政策在国家和地区层面执行。2月7日,总干事陈冯富珍(Margaret Chan)和热心反烟的纽约市长迈克尔·布隆伯格(Michael Bloomberg)将发布有史以来最全面的烟草消费调查报告。选择纽约发布反烟报告再合适不过了。纽约市卫生局长汤姆·弗里登(Tom Frieden)说,市长的努力使纽约成人吸烟率下降了20%,公共学校就读的未成年人吸烟率降低了50%。布隆伯格用个人慈善基金资助世界各地的反烟行动,也赞助了这次名为“MPOWER”的全球调查。

The study is “a call to action to avoid a public-health catastrophe”, says Douglas Bettcher, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the WHO. The report lists the anti-smoking efforts of countries worldwide, offering benchmarks for aspiring reformers. What the survey shows, says Dr Bettcher, is that most countries have yet to implement even those policies that are proven to work.
世界卫生组织无烟草行动负责人道格拉斯·贝彻(Douglas Bettcher)称这个调查“呼吁采取行动,以避免公共卫生灾难”。该报告列举了世界各国为禁烟所做的努力,为雄心勃勃的改革者提供了基准。贝彻说这个报告显示出,甚至那些已证明有效的政策在大多数国家也还没有得到执行。

The WHO says countries must do six related things. The first is to improve the quality of data on tobacco use. The second is to impose sweeping Irish-style smoking bans; only 5% of the global population is now covered by such curbs. The third is to intensify efforts to induce and assist smokers to drop the habit. Only nine countries offer the kind of well-funded, accessible programmes of which the WHO approves.
世界卫生组织称各国必须执行六项方针。第一,改进对烟草消费的数据统计。第二,实行爱尔兰式的全面禁烟;类似控烟措施仅保护了全球5%的人口。 第三, 加大努力说服并协助吸烟者戒烟。只有9个国家设有世界卫生组织认可的资金充足且操作性强的项目。

Those ideas concern the existing users of tobacco; another three are aimed at persuading people not to light up in the first place. It may be hard to believe, but the WHO insists that most smokers still do not understand the full extent of the health risks. It wants all countries to mandate large, grotesque pictorial warnings on cigarette packets. Another policy proven to work (in the handful of countries, representing 5% of the world's population, to have tried it) is a complete ban on marketing. The agency is adamant that “partial bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship do not work.”

The final prescription offered by the WHO is also the most powerful one: higher taxes. Studies show that raising tobacco taxes by a tenth may cause a 4% drop in consumption in rich countries and an 8% drop in poor ones, with tax revenue rising despite lower sales. The agency wants a 70% increase in the retail price of tobacco, which it says could prevent up to a quarter of all tobacco-related deaths worldwide. The claim is that higher taxes not only bring in revenue to fund anti-smoking efforts; they actually benefit the poor.

How come? A forthcoming paper by two scholars (Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Botond Koszegi of the University of California) notes that smokers face a familiar choice between short-term pleasure and a long-term desire to quit. Tobacco taxes are an incentive to make the right choice, and because the poor are price-sensitive, they benefit the most. Indeed, the authors calculate that in the United States, “the monetary value of the health damage from a pack of cigarettes is over $35 for the average smoker, implying both that optimal taxes should be very large and that cigarette taxes are likely progressive.”
怎么会呢?两位学者(麻省理工大学的Jonathan Gruber 和加利福尼亚大学的Botond Koszegi)即将发表的研究论文指出,要在短暂的快感和戒烟的长期向往之间抉择,这对吸烟者来说已是老生常谈。烟草税是让他们做出正确选择的动力,而且由于穷人对价格变动更加敏感,他们是最大的受益者。 实际上,两位学者经过计算,在美国“平均起来,一包烟对每个吸烟者的健康危害相当于35美元多的花费,由此引申出最佳的税收应该定的很高才对,而且烟草税应采用累加税率。”

The practical argument for action is simpler: the tobacco industry is getting the world's poor hooked before governments can respond. In recent years, as rich countries have clamped down on smoking, tobacco firms have shifted their focus to poorer places. A study by Britain's Bath University found that by using aggressive tactics, such as targeting women, international tobacco firms had helped to double smoking rates in Russia since 1991.
有一个很简单的论断可以支持上述做法:烟草业已经在各国政府能做出回应之前牢牢地拴住了穷人的口袋。近年来,随着发达国家遏制吸烟,烟草厂商已经把焦点转向了贫穷地区。英国巴斯大学(Bath University)一项研究表明发现,跨国烟草公司攻击性的策略,例如瞄准女性消费者,已导致俄罗斯目前的吸烟率比1991年翻了一番。

The tobacco industry is regrouping in order to focus on “promising” markets and escape the pesky lawsuits it is likely to face in rich, litigious countries. For example, Altria, a global tobacco concern based in the United States, plans to spin off Philip Morris International as a stand-alone foreign entity in late March. China is now home to more than a quarter of the world's smokers; it will soon be manufacturing Marlboro cigarettes for Philip Morris, and the firm will be exporting Chinese tobacco to other countries.
(Altria)集团计划在3月底将子公司菲利普·莫里斯国际公司 (Philip Morris International)剥离出去使之获得独立地位在国外运营。目前中国的烟民数量占全世界的四分之一;不久中国将为菲利普莫里斯生产万宝路(Marlboro)香烟,而且该公司还会将中国产的香烟出口到其他国家。

At times, the strategy used by public-health campaigners may seem heavy-handed; they retort that nothing else can work against a rich adversary. Indeed, Dr Bettcher argues that just as mosquitoes convey malaria, Big Tobacco is the “vector spreading this epidemic”. And eradicating tobacco may prove every bit as hard as fighting insect-borne disease.
很多时候, 公共卫生活动家所采用的战略看似残酷;他们反驳说,要与一个富有的对手抗衡,没有任何其他办法。的确,贝彻博士解释道,就像蚊子传播疟疾一样,烟草业就是“吸烟流行病的传染源”。铲除烟草会像防治昆虫传染病一样,点点滴滴都很艰辛。
发表于17:20 | 阅读全文 | 评论 1 | 编辑 | 分享 0中国:消费时代来临2008-02-20[2008.02.14]Economics focus From Mao to the mall消费时代来临
Economics focus

From Mao to the mall


Feb 14th 2008

From The Economist print edition

Amid all the global gloom, the good news is that China is turning into a nation of spenders, as well as sellers。虽然全球经济陷入低潮,但好兆头是中国正从出口大国步入消费大国。

THE past year has seen a lively debate among economists about China's rapid economic growth. Some, such as Brad Setser from the Council on Foreign Relations, believe that exports have been the main generator; others, like UBS's Jonathan Anderson and The Economist, think that domestic demand—spending on roads and railways, cars and clothes, and the like—has been the driving force. Just now, a lot turns on this argument: both how badly China's economy could be hurt by an American recession and also the extent to which Chinese spending could help to prop up the rest of the world economy. Some new figures suggest Chinese demand is rising strongly enough to help offset the increasing weakness in China's export markets. That could be good news for the world at large.

It is certainly true that China's current-account surplus rose to a record 10% of its GDP last year, which means that it produced a lot more than it consumed and so relied on foreigners to buy the excess. But it is the change in a country's trade surplus, not its absolute size, which matters for GDP growth. The increase in net exports (exports minus imports) has never been the main source of China's growth. It contributed two to three percentage points to annual GDP growth between 2005 and 2007, whereas domestic demand (consumption and investment) added eight to nine percentage points. But the latest figures show that exports have become even less important as a driver of growth. The World Bank's latest China Quarterly Update suggests that net exports contributed only 0.4 percentage points to GDP growth in the year to the fourth quarter of 2007 (see left-hand chart). Overall GDP growth slowed only modestly (to 11.2%) because of faster growth in domestic demand, which contributed an impressive 10.8 percentage points.

The significance of all this is that although China's headline GDP growth is widely tipped to slow to 9-10% in 2008, if a bigger chunk of this growth comes from domestic consumption and investment, then in absolute dollar terms China could well contribute more to global demand this year than in 2007.

Dragonomics, a Beijing-based economics-research firm, forecasts that the contribution of net exports to GDP growth will actually fall to zero during 2008, but this will be partly offset by strong growth in investment and consumption. After growing by an average of $80 billion during each of the past three years, China's trade surplus is likely to remain more or less flat this year. Export growth fell from 28% in the year to the first quarter of 2007 to 22% by the fourth quarter because of weaker American demand and the impact of a stronger yuan.

Meanwhile import growth surged from 18% to 26% on the back of strong industrial and consumer demand. In other words, Chinese imports are now growing faster than exports. China's trade surplus widened by only 12% (in dollar terms) over the year to the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of almost 90% in the first half of last year. This was partly due to higher oil prices that increased the value of imports, but even in inflation-adjusted volume terms the surplus stopped growing in the latter part of last year.

Time to open their wallets

Not only did more of China's growth come from domestic demand late last year, but there were also signs of a “rebalancing” of the economy from investment towards consumption. Using figures from China's National Bureau of Statistics, Mark Williams, an economist at Capital Economics, a London-based research firm, calculates that in 2007 consumption accounted for a bigger slice of GDP growth than investment for the first time in seven years. Government restraints on bank lending caused investment growth to slow slightly, whereas consumer spending picked up. The often-quoted monthly figures on fixed-asset investment still show annual growth of over 20%, but these figures are misleading. Measured on the same national-accounts basis as GDP, to exclude property and land sales, real investment rose by a more modest 11% in the year to the fourth quarter, less than the growth in real consumption.
去年下半年国内需求带动GDP大部分的增长,不仅仅如此,有迹象表明中国政府正在努力促使经济增长由投资拉动转向消费拉动。伦敦研究机构Capital Economics 经济学家Mark Williams 根据中国国家统计局给出的数据预计2007年由消费带动的GDP增长份额将在7年来首次超过投资带动的份额。政府采取限制银行借贷的政策,使投资增长速度略微放慢,而消费支出却一路上扬。经常引用的固定资产投资每月数据显示投资年度增长仍超过20%,但这一统计会导致误解。若基于GDP核算帐户进行计量, 除去地产与土地买卖,实际投资截至至第四季度仅上涨11%,比实际消费增长要慢。

China's consumer-spending data are notoriously murky. The annual rate of growth in retail sales has surged from 13% in early 2006 to 20% in December of last year (see right-hand chart). Some sceptics argue that this increase is mainly due to a rise in inflation. However, the consumer-price index is not the appropriate deflator because it gives a much higher weight to food (the main source of the recent surge in inflation) than the share of food in total retail sales. Frank Gong, an economist at JPMorgan, argues that using a more appropriate deflator, real spending has clearly accelerated, especially on household goods. One important stimulus is that last year real urban disposable income per head rose faster than GDP for the first time in five years. This should help to keep consumption growing rapidly in 2008.
中国的居民消费支出数据统计有出入,这人所共知。零售行业年增长由2006年年初13%上涨到去年12月的20%(见右图)。有人怀疑这一增长主要是因为通货膨胀率的提高。但是,用消费物价指数作为平减指数并不合适,因为该指数中食品所占权重高于食品消费在商品零售总额中的比例,而食品是近期通胀猛增的主要因素。摩根大通银行(JPMorgan Chase)经济学家龚福朗(Frank Gong)认为用实际开销来衡量更为恰当,并且实际开销在明显加大,特别是日用品开销的加大。去年城市居民人均可支配收入增长速度五年来首次高于GDP的增长,这应是一个重要的刺激因素。这将有助于08年消费继续保持快速增长。

A growth rate in China driven more by consumption than by exports and investment is exactly what the American government has been demanding for several years. Indeed, it might be hoped that if China's trade surplus stops expanding and consumer demand plays a bigger role in growth, international trade tensions should subside. The snag is that even if net exports were no longer contributing to China's growth, its trade surpluses with America and Europe would continue to loom embarrassingly large. And, says Mr Williams, as Chinese exporters move into higher-value products, they will become more of a threat to Western producers.

In 2008 China will probably suffer its first slowdown in growth for seven years. But strong domestic demand should mean that an American recession would not bring the Chinese economy to a screeching halt. Indeed, to the extent that the economy was starting to overheat, a slowdown will be welcomed by Chinese policymakers. And if almost all of the slowdown comes from net exports, while domestic spending remains robust, then the whole world can cheer, too.
发表于09:38 | 阅读全文 | 评论 2 | 编辑 | 分享 0电子时代的官僚主义2008-02-19[2008.02.14]The electronic bureaucrat 电子时代的官僚主义

The electronic bureaucrat 电子时代的官僚主义
Feb 14th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Putting their services online should allow governments to serve their citizens much more effectively. But despite heavy spending, progress has been patchy, says Edward Lucas (interviewed here)
将公共服务放在网上使得政府可以更高效的为公民服务。但是除去高额开支,进展也并不顺利,Edward Lucas这样说。

Illustration by Allan Sanders

AT 6.15AM on a December morning the streets of central London are cold, dark and offer little for the omnipresent CCTV cameras to record. But outside the Indian High Commission 109 people are sleepily waiting for the visa section to open. David Robb and his friend are first in line, huddled in sleeping bags behind a windbreak since 3am, to ensure visas for a planned holiday in Goa. Nearly all his fellow-sufferers in the queue have booked their air tickets and sometimes their entire holiday on the internet, paying with a credit card. Those electronic signals move information almost at the speed of light—billions of times faster than the shuffling, shivering humans in the visa queue. “In this day and age? Bleeding disgusting,” is Mr Robb's pithy comment on the Indian visa system.
12月一天的清早,6点15分,伦敦市中心的大街上清冷幽暗,并没有什么东西可供无处不在的摄像头录像的。但是在印度高级使节团门外,109个人忍着困意等待签证部门开始办公。大卫罗伯和他的朋友在队伍的最前面,在凌晨三点的时候便蜷缩在风墙后面的睡袋里,以保证自己能够获取赴果阿地区旅行的签证,行程早已计划好了。他后面队伍里的所有人几乎都在网上用信用卡支付预定好了机票和整个假期行程。那些电子信号用接近光速的速度传输信息——要比那些缓慢,冻得发抖的签证队列中的人们前行的速度快千万倍。 “是这个时代的东西吗?超级恶心。”罗伯先生这样概括印度的签证系统。

It is not just that the passport and its owner must be physically present. The £30 ($60) fee must be in cash; the visa form must be filled in by hand and authenticated with a signature and a photograph (a hard copy, not a digital file). The procedure has scarcely changed in 60 years. The 500 people waiting at 8.30am, when the visa office opens, should get their visas by noon, though on busy days stragglers may be told to collect it the next day. Applying by post is possible, but may take weeks.

Compare that with another queue forming in Grosvenor Square, a brisk 20-minute walk across London. Procedures at America's fortress-like embassy are even more stringent, requiring all visa applicants to present themselves in person, with no postal option. But here the procedure is backed up by intelligent use of electrons. Applications must be submitted online, accompanied by a non-refundable $131, paid electronically. In return, the applicant receives a confirmation e-mail, which includes a barcode with the information from the completed form. Printed out, it is also the entry ticket to the embassy, controlling outsiders' access to one of the main terrorist targets in London.

Inside, the barcode is scanned, putting the data onto the visa officer's computer. Fingerprints are digitally recorded. The visa itself, collected shortly afterwards, has banknote-style security features, plus a scanned picture of the applicant.

In some ways the differences are smaller than they seem. Under both systems, absurd questions are asked but the answers are never verified. India wants to know if you have relatives in Pakistan; America wants to know whether you were ever arrested for anything anywhere, and if so, why (your correspondent, detained several times by communist-era secret police, brazenly fibbed).

But in a few nutshells, visa services also illustrate some of the big issues about technology and government. First, processing power and good software can make government more user-friendly and sometimes also more efficient, but technology on its own cannot compensate for the mistakes of bureaucrats and politicians. Second, the state has to balance convenience against effectiveness, the outsider's time versus the taxpayer's money and the bureaucrat's effort. Technology may sharpen these problems or ease them, but it cannot eliminate them altogether.

Believers in technology's potential in public administration often speak of e-government, or of “transformation”. The practicalities are sometimes vague, but the big picture is clear: government not only puts its services online, but in doing so changes the way it works.

Most countries have got at least somewhere on this, chiefly in what might be called i-government: the provision of information. India's downloadable visa application form represents that stage. Progress is also being made on using the internet's potential for interaction. America's visa system goes some of the way by getting the applicant to key in the data.

The internet is also being used inside government to share data among departments. That is easier to do with non-citizens than with voters, who may be touchy about their privacy being invaded. The next stage will be to provide the whole service online. For visas, that would mean something printed out by the applicant, downloaded onto a smart card or even stored in a mobile phone (an example of “m-government”—same service, different delivery). At the same time, technology should also make it easier for politicians to connect with their voters (“e-democracy”).

Illustration by Allan Sanders

George Markellos of PA Consulting, a British-based consultancy, says that government needs to start by making three big changes. First, it needs to personalise what it offers, rather like online shopping services which record customers' preferences, making their next visit easier. Second, it has to provide round-the-clock access. People want to deal with government not only in office hours, but also in the evenings and at weekends. And lastly, public services have to be as easy to use as anything the private sector offers. In the online world, government is competing for users' time and attention with beautifully designed sites that are fun to use. The government's offering, says Mr Markellos, “has to be massively attractive”.
PA资讯师George Markellos说,政府需要在三个方面开始大的变革。首先,他应该个性化其服务,就像在线商店那样记录顾客的信息参数,使得他们的下一次登录更加容易;第二,应该提供全天候的服务通道。人民不想仅仅在办公时间能跟政府打交道,他们同样需要在夜间或者周末的时候得到政府的服务。最终,公共服务必须像其他私人部门所能提供的那样易用。在网络世界,政府是在与那些有着设计精良易于使用的网站竞争用户的时间和注意力。Markellos说政府的服务应该“有大大的吸引力”

Yet comparisons with the private sector get you only so far. Government rarely faces competition and public services seldom come at market prices. More often they are “free” or subsidised, and their use needs to be policed or rationed. The state provides its “customers” with defence, justice and roads, and usually some public services such as health care, education, pensions and transport, plus some support for the poor. But it is also the steward of scarce public resources and the preserver of public goods such as law and order. In keeping track of wrongdoers, actual and potential, being user-friendly is not crucial. New technology makes it easier to collect taxes but it does not make them any more welcome.

The state's role as a watchdog is something that the grumbling queues outside embassies have to bear in mind. Tough visa procedures undoubtedly deter businessmen and tourists from visiting, but the visa is the way that the state protects its citizens from undesirable outsiders. Similarly, issuing passports and driving licences is never going to be as easy as getting a loyalty card from a retailer.

This report will argue that technology can give politicians and officials a better idea of what the public wants and how to provide it, just as it has done in the private sector. But just as the private sector's adoption of new technology involved a number of pitfalls, some e-government ventures have been ill-starred. Citizens are right to be suspicious about technology that can make government all-encompassing, and they should demand a lot more of government as a monopoly provider of public services.

Technology on its own will not bring reform, but it can make changes easier, cheaper and more effective. The learning curve has not been nearly steep enough, but governments are getting better at buying and using computers and software. The benefits are mounting and the costs are coming down.

The benefits will be biggest in countries where officials and politicians are open to pressure and where the citizens are public-spirited to start with. E-government is no magic bullet, but it gives citizens and lobby groups more power to scrutinise government and highlight waste and dishonesty.

It's everywhere
Although hopes have been high and the investment has been huge, so far the results have mostly been disappointing. That reflects a big difficulty in e-government (and in writing about it): it touches on so many other things. What exactly is it that public organisations are trying to maximise, and how can it be measured? Ask the economists. What motivates officials and politicians to make government honest and competent? Bring in the political philosophers. And who decides on the highly contested trade-offs between privacy and security, efficiency and equity?

This report will explain that gloom, fear and optimism are all justified. It will look at the return on investment so far, the hoped-for gains and the neglected drawbacks of e-government. It will show how good leadership, openness and competition can bring spectacular gains, and how bad planning and political interference can make technology in government an expensive disaster. It will look at the dangers of government-run databanks and how to lessen them, and the way in which poor countries such as India may be able to leapfrog rich ones in their use of technology. It concludes by asking if e-democracy makes politics more participatory, or merely noisier. But it starts with an incontestable success: i-government.
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