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San Francisco Bay Area Well Positioned to Maintain High-Tech Leadership During Period of Accelerating Change

The Internet, as we know it, is only 15 years old (the World Wide Web invented in 1991), but already it has transformed the way people work, communicate and even shop. Still, experts believe the pace of technological innovation is set to advance at an even faster pace. VOA's Barry Wood reports and narrates from San Francisco for Producer Zulima Palacio.

High tech entrepreneur Kevin Jernigan is convinced that the pace of technological innovation is taking off. A Harvard computer science graduate, Jernigan says there are computers in unexpected places.

"How many computers are in your car? There are several hundred little computers, chips, everywhere. Managing your engine, the brakes, the airbags. Ten years ago there were probably a dozen, maybe less. Twenty years ago there were none. That's an exponential curve."

Bambi Francisco, Internet Editor at Dow Jones Market Watch, says new interactive Web sites (like Facebook and My Space) are changing the way young people use the Internet. Users are finding that communication can efficiently take place on a single page instead of with a string of emails. "I think the next generation -- those growing up with the Internet -- will find that far more useful than email. They'll find email very cumbersome."

Kevin Jernigan says email is already losing popularity with young people. "Email is for old people. Not only don't they use it, it's got this negative cachet. Who would use email? It's so obsolete, almost."

Yahoo, with 250 million email users, sees things differently. Sabrina Ellis is project director at Yahoo Mail. "Email is something that is fundamental to the Internet. An email address is something everyone has."

As people increasingly turn to the Internet for information, advertisers are following prospective customers on-line.

Francisco adds, "Advertising is very different now. It isn't just slapping a sign up on an outdoor bill board. It's about creating a community of very passionate fans and letting the fans do your selling."

Kevin Jernigan says as the pace of technical change accelerates, the San Francisco Bay Area is well positioned to retain leadership. The infrastructure is in place, the corporate culture welcomes innovation, and the money is here.

"The cluster of venture capital firms that are in the Valley, they won't invest in a company they can't get to in a 20 to 30 minute drive. So if you're a really smart guy looking for venture capital and you live in Iowa, they may be interested but they're going to tell you to move to the Bay area."

And those smart guys looking to start a business probably have emerged from Stanford or Berkley, the research universities that anchor the Silicon Valley.