I was recently honored to be invited by President Sarkozy of France to participate in the e-G8 Summit — a new and potentially useful summit of global Internet leaders, right before this year’s G8 Summit in Paris.
This event will bring together Internet leaders and political leaders, for two days of discussions about the Internet. The goal is to advise the G8 leaders on important issues related to the Internet.
I’m looking forward to this event, and I am hopeful that it will produce useful recommendations for the G8 leaders, and perhaps lead to an ongoing process to advise them on Internet policy.
But in researching and preparing for this, I have found very little information about the event, who the other attendees will be, and what the real motivations for the event are.
In addition – for an event of this magnitude, it is somewhat surprising that there has not yet been any significant press coverage of it yet.
So, in the interest of transparency, and in helping to bring together the community of participants, and in addition, to seek suggestions from others for what issues or suggestions we should focus on, I am going to unveil the information I have received about the event publicly, for the first time.
I believe this is the first time this information has been shared publicly, and I think you will find it interesting…
Then, in the second half of this article, below, I will discuss my questions about what this event might achieve, what we might bring to the table there, and in particular what ideas or proposals you might have as well?
Dear Mr. SPIVACK,
In my current capacity as President of the G8, I would like to place the issue of the Internet on the agenda of the Summit of Heads of State and Government that will be held in Deauville on 26-27 May 2011. We are all in agreement that it is essential for our States to consider the development of the Internet and its economic, political and cultural effects in our own countries and throughout the world.
This commitment from the Heads of State and Government shows that the time has come to engage in genuine dialogue with the main world players in the information and communication technologies sector, particularly in order to strengthen the Internet’s major contribution to economic growth.
It is for this reason that I have decided to organise the “e-G8 Forum” in Paris on 24-25 May. Over these two days, the CEOs and the leaders of the Internet’s most leading companies and organisations will work together before sharing their proposals with the Heads of State and Government in Deauville.
Participants in the e-G8 Forum will be able to exchange ideas about cutting-edge products and services. They will also be able to discuss the challenges and opportunities which they believe relevant to the future of the Internet, offering their opinions on a wide range of issues, including for example human rights, intellectual property and technological investment.
Given the key role you play in the field of information technology, as an entrepreneur and a leader, I would be honoured if you could attend this unprecedented conference.
The Fact Sheet
The Internet: Accelerating Growth
Paris, May 24-25, 2011
The French President Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy, as current President of the Group of Eight countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – is convening an extraordinary invitation-only meeting of the best and the brightest technology leaders from the G8 and the rest of the world. He wishes to include in the G8 Summit agenda the possibilities opened up by the Internet and to enable the e-G8 Forum to contribute their viewpoint and reflections to the discussions of the Heads of State.
The e-G8 Forum will be held in Paris on May 24-25, immediately preceding the G8 Heads of State and Government Summit in Deauville on May 26-27.
The e-G8 Forum is designed to inform the G8 discussion and encourage dialogue between governments and global media/technology companies. This year, for the first time ever, the Internet’s role in society and the economy will be formally on the G8 Summit agenda. Although invited on the initiative of the President of the French Republic, the stakeholders in the digital economy will be free to choose their topics, agenda, content and conclusions which will be submitted to the discussion of the Heads of State. That is why President Sarkozy wishes the e-G8 Forum to be a private organization, placed under the presidency of Maurice Lévy, Chairman & CEO of Publicis Groupe.
e-G8 Forum Theme: The Internet: Accelerating Growth. The reach and impact of the Internet, fast-evolving technology and the roll-out of broadband across the world have been huge contributors to economic growth, job creation, education and empowerment in the last decade – and this digital ecosystem will be critically important in accelerating global growth in coming years.
Location: Stunning custom-built forum space in the Tuileries gardens, located between the Musée du Louvre and Place de la Concorde in the center of Paris.
Participants: Strictly by personal invitation only, the e-G8 Forum’s explicit goal is to gather leading global players of the digital ecosystem. This high-level community includes CEOs, technologists, entrepreneurs, and industry experts. Forum participants are invited to an extraordinary e-G8 Forum Dinner at the Louvre Museum on Tuesday May 24.
Program: Combining plenary sessions, town hall discussions and private dialogue, the e-G8 Forum will include discussions on economic growth, social issues such as human rights, intellectual property protection and privacy, and the Internet of the future.
Ideas from the e-G8 Forum will be presented at the G8 Summit, for the first time giving a voice to leading companies investing in technology and the future of the Internet.
Organization: President Sarkozy has asked Maurice Lévy, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, to organize the e-G8 Forum.
Press: For press accreditation firstname.lastname@example.org
General Information: email@example.com
The Internet: Accelerating Growth
MONDAY 23 MAY
17h00 – 21h00: Welcome and Registration -Tuileries Gardens
TUESDAY 24 MAY
08h30 – 10h00: Registration, coffee and networking
10h00 – 10h10: Welcome & Introduction, Maurice Lévy, Chairman & CEO, Publicis Groupe, Chairman of the e-G8 Forum
10h10 – 10h45: Opening Keynote
Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, current President of the G8
10h45 – 11h00: Q&A with President Sarkozy
11h00 – 12h00: Plenary I
“Silicon Power: The Internet & Economic Growth”
Information Technology and the entire digital ecosystem have been a powerful creator of jobs and wealth around the world. How to ensure this continues?
12h00 – 13h00: Plenary II
“Rewiring Societies” The Internet has empowered people around the world, most recently and most spectacularly in the Middle East, but also in many other instances. Are we seeing the emergence of a new society: more open, transparent and free?
13h00 – 14h30: Lunch
14h30 – 15h30: Plenary III
“Future of the Net: What Next?”
Broadband, booming data, video, the explosion of cloud computing, storage: the financing of infrastructures, how value is created and shared
15h30 – 16h00: Coffee break and networking
16h00 – 17h00: Content and intellectual property
17h00 – 18h00: Conversations with legendary figures of the Internet
20h00 – 22h30: e-G8 Dinner at the Louvre Museum and private visits of the museum
WEDNESDAY 25 MAY
08h00 – 09h00: Continental breakfast and networking
09h00 – 10:00: Plenary I
“Innovation and Financing”
The impact of new technologies on strategies for innovation and R&D What are the best strategies for creating innovative ecosystems and clusters?
10h00 – 10h30: Coffee break and networking
10h30 – 12h00: Parallel Workshops I
1. Fostering Innovation and Education
2. The impact of the digital revolution on small and medium-sized businesses
3. Entertainment and Culture in the Digital Age
12h00 – 13h00: Parallel Workshops II
1. Mobile Internet: how mobile is transforming commerce
2. Protection of privacy and the youth
3. The Net and the Media: the future of media in a digital society
13h00 – 14h30: Lunch
14h30 – 15h30: Parallel Workshops III
1. In the Social Media Age: the impact on society
2. Creativity and entrepreneurship on the Net
3. Trust: Creating and maintaining trust in a world of booming data
15h30 – 16h00: Coffee break
16h00 – 17h30: Plenary II
“Start-up Nations: the best and the brightest start-ups”
17h30 – 18h30: Closing Plenary of the e-G8 Forum
My Thoughts and Questions
I am honored to be among the invitees and do plan on participating. However, that said, I also have a number of thoughts and questions about this gathering, its purpose, and the results that may or may not come from it. I am certainly hopeful and optimistic – but I also think an event of this nature will face a number of challenges.
First of all, this event is being organized rather suddenly, with very little advance-notice to potential attendees. So my first question is, who will actually be going? I am definitely attending, but I’m curious to know who the other attendees will be?
In searching Twitter for the terms “eg8“, “e-G8,” “#eg8“, “#e-G8” I have found a few others, such as Leo Laporte and Jimmy Wales who have also announced their intention to attend. If you are attending, please announce it on Twitter at the hashtag #eg8 so we all can see who the delegates will be.
My second question is about the motivation for the event. Why is President Sarkozy organizing this event at this time? Is there a political agenda at work here, or is this simply to bring one of the major drivers of global society and economics to the table at the G8 level for the first time? Perhaps both are factors in the decision to do this?
It is also interesting to note that President Sarkozy, along with the other G-8 leaders, have generally supported polices which are not always in the best-interests of the people who use the Internet – for example, around issues of privacy, freedom of speech, taxation, and net neutrality.
Is this event designed to truly bring all perspectives together in order to craft new policies, or to build support for policies that have largely already been set by the G-8 nations?
Will this event result in helping Big Corporations and Big Governments be even Bigger, or will it also provide a voice to the people, the citizens of the Web? Will the delegates be thinking about themselves and their companies, or will they try to bring larger issues to the table?
Another question is what can be achieved in only two-days, especially when dealing with multiple very different cultures with widely divergent views about privacy, free speech, taxation, etc? I think this will be perhaps the main challenge of this gathering: will it be possible to bridge these differences and have not only a meaningful dialogue, but one that results in useful and new ideas and proposals for the G8 leaders to consider?
I am skeptical that it will be possible to reach any sort of agreement on such complex and controversial issues in a short timeframe, however, perhaps it will be possible for the delegates to come up with recommendations for Internet-related issues that require urgent attention from the G8 leaders, at least.
Another useful output of this event could be a new network of relationships that connect a broad cross-section of Internet leaders with government leaders at a very high level. The new relationships and communication channels that result from this could perhaps become very important in influencing and shaping policy in the future. In the end, this may be one of the key long-term benefits of this gathering.
What Should We Discuss?
As a participant in the e-G8, I hope I can contribute something useful, and hopefully novel. I presume many of the other delegates will be from giant corporations, and will have viewpoints that at least to some extent reflect the goals of those corporations. In my case, I am not affiliated with any giant corporation presently; I work mainly with small, emerging technology startups.
At an event of this nature, I hope I can help to represent the viewpoint of the startup community, entrepreneurs, innovators, angel investors, incubators, and consumers on the Web. This is a perspective that is often drowned out in gatherings of leaders of multibillion dollar corporations and large governments — yet it is also one that is extremely valuable, since the technology startup sector is actually a key engine of new jobs, economic development, innovation, and growth.
I think it is of vital importance to find ways to transplant the DNA of Silicon Valley into other regions around the world, so that this kind of new economic opportunity and growth spreads and benefits more regions.
Another area that I focus on is the future of the Internet. Where is it going, and what is needed to get it there in the optimal way?
There are many issues to discuss around this ranging from identity, privacy, open standards, open-source software, and net neutrality (which should be re-branded as “net equality”), to who owns personal information, copyright law, software patent law reform, accessibility, and infrastructure – particularly infrastructure that can’t be easily controlled or compromised by any one party.
I’ve been involved with the Internet since the 1980’s, and helped to pioneer the early days of the Web, as well as the Semantic Web, “Web 3.0″ and new initiatives around the real-time Web. These technology movements have captivated me with their potential for increasing human freedom and capabilities. But there is equally great potential to use them to limit freedom and control humanity even more.
What concerns me most today is that more power over the Internet is falling into fewer hands, and this trend is continuing with the eager support of big corporations and governments.
What is of greatest importance, for the people of the world, is to find new ways to decentralize and democratize the key capabilities of the Internet (such as bandwidth, messaging infrastructures, identity infrastructures, privacy systems, data storage, on-ramps, and even the content of the Web) and to protect them from attempts to control them, co-opt them, or limit them.
If we are not extremely careful and diligent in our efforts to protect the open Internet from commercial and government interests, I think it is likely that we will end up building an Internet that is a kind of prison instead of a launchpad for greater levels of human evolution.
Here is just one example of what I’m worried about – Facebook is now considering limiting free speech in order to placate governments around the world. But Facebook isn’t alone in this – all the large global online services are having to balance complex opposing concerns – and too often in these situations, money wins out over human rights.
Social networks are the cultural nervous systems of our new 21st century civilization. The problem is, they are being created and governed by commercial interests, not by their constituents.
If commercial social networks truly do become the fabric of our new societies, what happens to our civilization? It becomes privatized and controlled by commercial interests, not elected governments. Is that a world you want to live in?
The Internet is a new global resource, which, like the oceans, the atmosphere and the rainforests, must be protected in order to be of greatest benefit. It is something which every human should be able to share in, equally, and in fact, equal access to the Internet may soon become necessary in order to participate equally in any society or government.
One thought along these lines that I have been exploring recently: Do Internet users need to be protected with certain guaranteed basic rights and freedoms in their online lives? And should we all agree to a new online social contract, or even laws, for what kinds of behavior are acceptable? Is it time for these kinds of agreements to be formed?
Civil rights, standards of behavior and laws, are necessary for any society to function, and our emerging global online society is no exception. Perhaps it is time to propose the first Internet Bill of Rights, and a standard Internet Code of Conduct?
Of course, such initiatives are risky to propose – they could easily backfire and instead of promoting freedom they could become new means of limiting freedom. So I do not believe these policies should be created in a vacuum – I think they would require broad participation and comment from the entire community of Internet constituents. I do however think it is possible that such initiatives could be very valuable in the future.
What Do You Think?
These are just a few preliminary thoughts, but really I am more interested in hearing from you — what issues should the e-G8 be thinking about? What issues should we be proposing to the G8 leaders? And do you have any specific proposals to offer?
I am very interested in hearing from you, as I am sure the other e-G8 attendees are as well. Please add your thoughts in the comments below so we can see what you suggest and are thinking about. I look forward to being able to represent a broad perspective at this event.