Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt is currently in Cambridge, outlining his vision of a connected future as Humanitas Visiting Professor in Media.
Far be it from us to paraphrase a 45 minute lecture, but here goes anyway:
The 5 billion people who are not yet connected to the Internet soon will be.
To some extent they’ll leapfrog the developed world (eg via mobile technologies) because they are unburdened by legacy infrastructure.
In every case, the arrival of a free and open internet has had positive benefits for society.
So far, so cool. But by focusing on the internet’s benefits in the developing world, he neatly sidestepped concerns about the first world and Google’s monopolistic mediation of access.
We don’t believe Google is truly evil, merely self-interested; and we don’t doubt that Dr Schmidt is genuine in his desire to expose societies such as North Korea to the democratising effects of the internet.
But as he himself said last night “We like advertising. Over 95% of our revenue comes from advertising”.
And since we always like to follow the money, we suspect the possibility of seeing AdWords running in Pyongyang is rather more than just a happy by-product of his desire for democratic enlightenment.