This week I was lucky enough to participate in the e-G8 Forum. Hats off to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Publicis CEO Maurice Levy for having the foresight to bring together a collection of web executives from all sizes and types of technology companies at e-G8. Our goal was to produce a series of guidelines, principals, and proposals for the G8 -- yes those guys, the heads of the largest eight economies of the world.
On average, 21% of GDP growth in mature economies is coming from the internet. This thing is real, it is big, and it's now a real part of the policy-makers' world. It's high time that as an industry we deal with this fact and start to grow up. The e-G8 is a strong first step in this process.
Data, privacy, and the role of government are cornerstone topics that will provide a foundation that we can all execute on for years to come if we as an industry can come to an agreement with the G8. And that 's what it's all about: driving jobs and economic prosperity through innovation. We all know that the Internet has provided that spark ... We live it; we love it; so now let's protect it.
The best path forward starts with education. The data speaks for itself. The Internet accounts for nearly 5% of GDP from the top 13 markets (which make up 70% of Global GDP). For every job lost to internet technology and automation, 2.4 are created. Companies with "high" web focus are growing twice as fast as "low" web focus companies. Growth and jobs are two things I want to see in my children's future. Washington and politicians worldwide are starting to pay attention because "growth" and "jobs" drive elections. Technology and the Internet are taking center stage globally; it is our job to educate our world leaders.
At the e-G8 forum a few themes emerged. Putting these themes together in one PowerPoint presentation for the G8 involved a very funny sausage making session led by Maurice Levy that included Eric Schmidt, Jean-Bernard Levy, Hiroshi Mikitani, and Paul Jacobs, among others. We can all take solace in the knowledge that distilling difficult -- sometimes competing -- concepts into one presentation is a painful process even for the smartest minds in our industry. Below are my own major take-aways and here is a link to the content at the forum.
- It's about jobs and the future of economic prosperity. From emerging economies like India to the struggling economies of Africa all the way to major economies like the United States, United Kingdom and France ... growth and jobs are being led by the internet. So let's feed this thing, not starve it. That begins with a free and open Internet access for all.
- Innovation is the catalyst. Growth is happening because of imagination and innovation that is largely coming from small companies. Big companies are adopting new technology after it is innovated by small companies. Let's enable and give voice to the small companies, not foster policies created by the big companies. I am particularly worried about this theme because thus far politicians and world leaders tend to listen to large business interests.
- Balance. It is clear that innovation is driving growth and the ecosystem is moving faster than any we have ever seen. Let's not regulate ourselves to a point of paralysis. In fact, regulation should only set guidelines. Technology solves problems, let the ecosystem work its magic. So far, it is working quite well.
- Transparency & Choice was a red-hot topic. While transparency and choice are all about privacy for now, the principals apply to the ecosystem as a whole. We must be transparent about what is happening with everything (this means you Facebook). User data is just the first hot issue. We must give users the tools to choose how they want to participate. Frankly, all or nothing options, such as, cookies vs. no cookies, are the wrong answer. As an industry, we are better than that . We can, and should, offer more options. If we do not provide more and better options, others with less experience and knowledge will make the decisions for us. That defeats the whole point of my second take-away above, freedom of innovation.
Having said that , some regulatory guidelines are prudent. A few were suggested: the internet should be free and open for all. Governments should foster policy to drive broadband to all people. Standards for things like finance security protocols need to be agreed upon. Guidelines for healthcare and privacy, at a G8 level, not country level, should be set. Regulation may have unintended consequences, so let's be thoughtful and cautious.
Overall, I am impressed with how far we've come as an industry. I am excited about how much there is left to do. If we as an industry take these tenants to heart and teach them to our policy makers, there is hope technology and innovation can help economies escape the financial mess we have all gotten into. Flourishing imagination and innovation will finally bring the global world together, where politics, religion, and banking have failed. The e-G8 Summit is a damn good start.
*I am grateful for the statistics contained in this piece, provided by McKinsey Global Institute briefing note.