Leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland were talking about more than the flow of capital at this year’s summit – the flow of information, and computers to handle it, was on the table as well.
At the Digital Divide Conference, part of the events in Davos, Switzerland, reports the New York Times, computer industry leaders and visionaries were talking about how to wire the third world, creating laptops priced as low as $100. These laptops, while still an impossible reach for most of the third world, might be something that could be made available in large quantities through a charitable venture.
Some industry leaders were presenting on the topic of the information economy, including Chad Hurley, co-founder of the now Google-owned Youtube, which is planning to share the wealth gained by its advertising with some of its leading media uploaders, says the Financial Times.
The computer hardware industry is also being challenged by the developments in the third world market. Nicholas Negroponte, formerly of MIT, is leader of a nonprofit known as One Laptop Per Child, and is moving forward with the $100 laptop proposition, initially running the free operating system Linux, and aiming at providing children with a device adapted to their lives. Craig R. Barrett, the former chief executive of Intel, now representing the United Nations’global information technology development interests, appears according to the New York Times to be spearheading an effort to adapt children and their teachers to the global technology market, teaching them how to use Microsoft software and Intel-based hardware.
The New York Times also reports that discussions with Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation now owns MySpace, a major source of user generated content, and others, covered the dark side of the “information freedom for all” philosophy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, spoke of the 6,000 plus known websites active in support of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, “peddling violence, peddling extremism.”
The Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were also quoted as questioning the value of mass quantities of user-generated information, as they spoke of the increasing value of traditional print journalism, both in quality and in uniqueness. This was in contrast to the expectations of many in the print media themselves, who questioned the fate of the traditional newspaper.
Other topics, including globalization, global climate change, the high use of debt in private equity buyouts, and increased transparency in multinational corporations’operations, especially in the area of environmental impact, are all topics which will be strongly affected by the spread of the information economy, and increased awareness in all levels of the economic world. As the title of one Friday session asked, “Who will shape the agenda?” That is surely on the minds of everyone there, as they open the doors of the flow of information to ever increasing numbers of people in the world.