French president Nicolas Sarkozy launched the first e-G8 Summit in Paris today to implore the 1,500 Internet pioneers, start-up executives and movers and shakers from around the world to continue their dedication to entrepreneurship, but to exercise responsibility to expand the Internet and digital media availability to all.
“Freedom of exppression is the driving force of democracy,” Sarkozy said. “It’s a tremendous responsibility for you and us (in government).”
Sarkozy called upon the group to formulate an action plan to present to the G8 Summit, with the eight most powerful developed country’s heads of state, to be held in France later this month.
“It would be a contradiction to leave government out of this massive discussion,” he said.
The Internet business and its spin-offs represent an average of 3.4 percent GDP among developed countries. Because of the impact on each country’s economy, the Internet is a key issue for each country’s leadership. Sarkozy peppered his 45-minute presentation with advice to Internet companies moving forward.
“Do not let monopolies emerge where older ones have been dismantled,” Sarkozy said. “Do not let the technology you have created affect the freedom of elementary rights. Do not undermine security and integrity.”
Several Internet luminaries asked questions of Sarkozy.
Jeff Jarvis, professor of journalism at New York University, asked the president to consider a “Hypocratic oath” of “do no harm” when formulating a governmental policy on the Internet, to which Sarkozy emphasised no harm is or should be intended in such a policy.
The opening session was followed by a session with two McKinsey & Company consultants who summarised the explosive growth of the Internet worldwide, and the significant impact on the global economy. The last morning panel session included Internet heavy-hitters, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; John Donahoe, CEO of eBay; Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO of Vivendi; Nen Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent; and Suni Mitalia, chairman of Bharti Airtel. The executives, moderated by Verwaayen, discussed wide ranging issues that would become part of the G8’s lofty agenda.
Schmidt explained that the advent of platforms have been a main driver for the Internet’s meteoric rise, including blogging, e-commerce and smartphone and tablet applications. These are content platforms, with direct access to the end user, Verwaayen said.
“What is important is what the millions of users can do with the platform,” Donahoe said.
Banking services on mobile phones have changed the way banking is done in India, with customers accessing their own “personal” branch on their millions of mobile phones, Mitalia said. The same phenomenon is going on around the world, including the developing world, such as Africa, where many citizens have never even visited a bank before.
“We have to upgrade services,” he pointed out.
Schmidt agreed, saying: “We must remove the barriers, dig trenches and raise poles to make more mobile connections.”