Today's date:
Summer 2011

“Openness Must Be the Norm”

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, attended the G-8 Summit in France in late May as a representative of the e-G-8 meeting held a few days before. Here is a brief excerpt of Schmidt’s report to the 21st Century Council on the principal points made by the G-8 leaders:

1. The knowledge society caused the end of the Cold War. Computers and information enabled full participation by everyone. This ability for citizens to think globally is a fundamental part of our democracies.

2. We cannot squelch the innovation power of the Internet. More jobs and commerce happen because of it. The freedom of the Internet is a means to achieve more open participation in society. We need to keep free expression and the open model of the Internet going.

3. The Internet makes governments more accountable and enables more self-government. It is important to make openness the norm. Liberating government data has huge and positive benefits for openness, transparency and job creation.

4. The United States is funding $3 billion in R+D for the development of 4G and 5G technologies. All of the G-8 countries should share and partner with this research.

5. The infrastructure of the Internet is vitally important. The connection of people by fiber should be a high priority, regardless of urban or rural scale.

6. More transparent lives do not mean a person gives up his or her privacy rights. Google Streetview in Germany was cited as an example where 3 percent opted out and 97 percent were satisfied with what Google eventually did.

7. Privacy should not be used as an excuse to regulate content more broadly.  Regulation that we do need must be harmonized more. The European countries differ among themselves on a number of issues.

8. We should be able to protect citizens without setting up barriers to innovation and give citizens the power to control their privacy online. It is particularly important to prevent child pornography on the Internet.

9. Internet censorship (opposed by all the members) is worse than Internet regulation and should be strongly opposed.

10. Our universities are not turning out enough programmers and Information and Communications Technolgies (ICT) professionals to keep up with the opportunities.

11. It is time to modernize copyright, for example allowing people to use the copyrighted information on different types of devices they personally own.

12. Cybersecurity is getting more important and countries should review “conventions” (the agreements between the countries) to make sure we all cooperate on network and Internet security.

13. Each country has the right to participate in the management of the World Wide Web and all should act to keep it open and free.

14. Cloud computing enables a whole level of new government services as well as enhances the openness we value so much.

At the end of the meeting, President Nicolas Sarkozy reminded us that revolutions can be followed by counter-revolutions and pushed us to resolve the apparent conflicts over such issues as digital rights. He encouraged information industry negotiations with his help for digital rights under the operating assumption that authors’ rights should be paid for, which we all generally agreed. He also mentioned the need for a digital tax to help fund infrastructure in our countries.