April 23, 2011

e-G8: Internet and digital ecosystem will be on G8's agenda this year

Couple of days back I received an invitation to attend the e-G8 Forum in Paris in a month's time. The e-G8 Forum, the first of its kind, will be held immediately preceding this year's G8 Summit, the annual meeting of the leaders of the eight most advanced countries in the world, which is hosted by France this year. Apparently they want to provide the leaders of G8 fresh ideas about the Internet and the digital ecosystem.

I don't know what to make of it. I've no idea what to expect. One of the reasons that may be driving high interest in the Internet and digital media amongst governments around the globe is the role the Internet medium has played in the Arab Spring. We all have witnessed over the recent months how ordinary citizens, armed nothing but a simple cell phone connected to the Internet, using social media tools like Facebook & Twitter, have been able to create a groundswell of uprisings resulting into social revolutions which spread overnight like a wild fire and overthrew decades-old dictatorial regimes across the Arab world. By contrast, America's war in Iraq to free that country of a brutal dictator and replace it with a democracy took almost a decade, over which hundreds of billions of dollars were spent and thousands of lives were lost (both American and local). Tunisia and Egypt achieved that within weeks, without any costly external invasion and massive bloodshed.

I'm happy that France is being pro-active to engage people from the industry and start a dialog at the highest level. I hope that the e-G8 Forum is not a pre-cursor to unnecessary regulations that may be implemented in order to govern the Internet, a nascent and still evolving new medium for open communication and sharing across global citizens. History is a proof that governments of all shapes sizes and colors have tried to control the press in order to influence the public debate and sway its citizens in supporting policies designed by non-democratic legislatures. Internet is the "press" of the 21st century youth, and it truly transcends national boundaries.

Given my curiosity, I've accepted the invitation. Spring in Paris should be fun anyway. I also hope to catch some French Open tennis...the grand slam tournament kicks off in Paris that same week.

I've included the full invitation below. It provides their thinking behind the event.

Dear Sab Kanaujia,

A the initiative of Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic and the current President of the G8, the Heads of State and Governement of the Group of Eight – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – have decided to place the Internet and the digital ecosystem on the agenda of next month’s G8 Summit. This will mark the very first time that information technology formally takes a place on the agenda of a summit of heads of state – a recognition of how critically important these sectors are to sustaining and accelerating global economic growth.

In order to provide G8 political leaders with fresh ideas, President Sarkozy has asked me to coordinate the organization of the e-G8 Forum to take place in Paris on May 24 and 25. This will be a unique gathering of the world’s top Internet and digital leaders, not only from across the G8 nations, but further afield. Through our debates and discussions at the e-G8, we can and we must bring our reflections, ideas and experiences directly to the G8 leaders.

As the e-G8 Forum’s Chairman, I am therefore honoured to invite you to come to Paris to take part in this historic event. I believe it is vitally important that your voice be heard during the Forum. Only a true diversity of opinion can guarantee a good outcome.

Discussions at the two-day Forum will be a mixture of plenary sessions and in-depth workshops where a wide variety of themes will be addressed, including:

- The Internet as key driver for economic growth
- The emergence of global digital citizenship
- The digital technologies of the future
- How best to promote innovation clusters
- The mobile revolution and its impact on commerce, media and advertising
- Privacy and IP protection

President Nicolas Sarkozy will himself deliver the opening keynote address at 10:00 a.m. on May 24.

Various items of useful information are here available, including a pre-program of the event and a factsheet. (FactsheetPre-program)

Please note participation in the e-G8 Forum is strictly by personal invitation only. To register for the e-G8 Forum, please simply click on the link below
and use the following password: xxxx

I look forward to welcoming you at the e-G8 Forum next month.

Maurice Lévy
Chairman of the e-G8 Forum
Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe