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The broad penetration of the Internet is ultimately better for the safety of a country

Expert opinion
3 June 2020
«Широкое распространение интернета способствует безопасности страны»
Release date
06/03/2020
Authors

In 2011 Eric Schmidt — one of the most renowned figures in the IT industry and at the time Executive Chairman of Google — spoke at the session «The World According to Google» at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. What he said turned out to be remarkably prophetic, particularly when viewed from the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic and our experience of self-isolation.

About Russia

I was in St. Petersburg 17 years ago, just at the beginning of the Internet, and the changes that I have seen are so astounding over that period that you all are to be congratulated for what you have achieved. To have built such an infrastructure, to have built such a vibrant economic structure around the Internet here in Russia is something that you should be proud of, and it is a great accomplishment for everybody in Russia.

Broadband internet and democracies

The adoption of broadband, fast connections for every citizen or as many as you can connect, is very pro-democracy. It is very pro-empowerment. It is very pro-citizens. It is very much an opportunity to create new jobs. It is very pro-exports. It is very pro-global. I will say that I think Russia is in a sweet spot.

E-learning

Over the next 10, 20 years, Russians will come up with very sophisticated ways of teaching and training the sophisticated sciences that you represent and economics and so forth, and you might be dislocated by that as well. But the fact of the matter is that the society would be better off if everyone is learning about economics on the Internet because it reaches all of the country. So the Internet creates very large audiences that can be monetized. It is important to figure out new ways of monetization that are not the same as the old.

Copyright

From a Google perspective, we want to respect copyright. And so from our perspective, if you own the copyright and you build the product, you should decide how to sell it.

Facial recognition technology

It is not a good idea in our view that these kinds of services be applied without the user’s permission, because it could be abused. You can imagine all sorts of ways in which it will be abused. If I took a picture of everyone here, you could automatically name everybody, and that is really a violation of people’s privacy. So we care very much about people’s privacy. We want people to be able to say, «I want to participate» or «I don’t want to participate.» And I think ultimately that is how the laws and regulations will emerge.

Cyber crime and terrorism

And I would argue that the broad penetration of the Internet is ultimately better for the safety of a country because it means that it is quicker to report crimes, it is quicker to report anomalies. The government can use the fact that the Internet is connected, to understand what the society is doing and understand better what people are up to.

The impact of new technologies on politics

I am sure that the Internet will affect politics in many, many ways. I personally do not believe we will move to a more direct democracy.

The future

We are governed by Moore’s Law, which is roughly the doubling of performance every two years. Which means in 10 years, everything is 32 or so times faster. Which means in 20 years, it is a thousand times faster. So imagine your mobile phone a thousand times cheaper, a thousand times faster. Still the same fingers, by the way, but that much faster. And begin to think about what we can do with that kind of computing capability. A thousand times more servers and knowledge and so forth.

Future prospects for Google

From a Google perspective, I would speculate that Google will clearly still be fundamentally in the information business, but you will see fewer of the answers of ’here is all the Web’ and more of a move to giving you the right answer.

How to quickly grow your business

The quickest way to be successful as a young entrepreneur is to try to figure out, when everyone in Russia is connected, what is the question that they cannot answer today that you can answer for them? If you can figure that out quickly, and if you can get it built quickly, you can build a business very, very quickly, whether it is in entertainment, something related to search or travel or resources, any of those.


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