Hasselmo, Carlson: Keep state competitive in technology

by Jacquelyn Olson

Universities, businesses and government need to collaborate in order for future growth to occur in Minnesota’s computer industry. This theme, often heard in discussions among University, business and state government leaders, was reiterated by many participants Wednesday at the “Strictly Business Computer & Graphics Expo” convention in Minneapolis.
The convention commemorated the 50-year anniversary of the computer industry in Minnesota. Gov. Arne Carlson proclaimed 1996 as Minnesota’s Year of the Computer at a convention luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis for more than 100 business leaders and journalists. The luncheon featured an address by Control Data Corporation founder William Norris and a panel discussion included University President Nils Hasselmo.
Norris said the future of Minnesota’s competitiveness in the technology industry depends on education.
“Minnesota is on the road to improved education and technology,” Norris said. Personalized learning for students and increased use of technology in the classroom will be necessary for the state’s educational system to best serve its students, he said.
Cooperation between business, education and government was a theme stressed throughout the convention. Hasselmo said he wants to see increased collaboration with businesses, but often “there are ways in which the expectation is that a public institution is not willing to work with a private corporation. There is always a degree of suspicion.”
“Students think we are corporatizing the University,” he said, citing student response to recent University efforts to merge its hospital with Fairview Health System.
“There is a suspicion that cooperation between a public institution and a corporation is not right.”
Though there are always some government restrictions regarding collaborating with corporations, Hasselmo said, the real difficulty “is more in the mind-set of people than in the actual regulations.”
Carlson agreed that a high degree of collaboration is necessary to keep Minnesota competitive in the computer industry. “It is our job to make sure we foster that kind of climate,” he said.
“Those nations and those states that recognize the importance of the technological revolution will be the ones who ultimately emerge as winners,” Carlson said.
In Minnesota’s computer future, Carlson wants to see small companies grow. He also hopes to see more youth trained in software, eliminating a current shortage.
The employment industry often complains that an institution only teaches theory, Norris added, but students need hands-on, practical experience to get hired.
“The way a University should operate should be: How can we create that partnership between business and academic needs?” Carlson said. “In the case of the U, it should be Hasselmo and the Board of Regents saying ‘gee, we want to be relevant to software development.'”
Another theme of the conference was the importance of the Internet in the future of business. Ann Winblad, partner and co-founder of Hummer Winblad/Venture Partners, led the panel discussion and said the Internet is “becoming the backbone of the (business) community.”
Hasselmo said the Internet is causing a revolution at the University as well. It can be seen in everything from Internet classes to online class registration, he said.
Classes that require computer work are on the rise, Hasselmo said, and providing students with computer access is one reason user fees are necessary.
The convention was sponsored by the Minnesota Software Association in cooperation with the University’s Charles Babbage Institute.