Eric Schmidt Keynote Speech At Mobile World Congress 2012
“We need to act now to avoid new digital cast system," he said in a direct address to the assembled mobile industries, and also via livestream.
He spoke with a pure Californian vision for an internet that is censorship free, includes the five billion yet to get access and saves lives.
Schmidt spoke said: "The web is great with just two billion people using it. Imagine how great it can be with the next five billion."
"We forget about these people," he said of people living without access to the internet. "It’s a scarce resource for them, they live in digital oases if you will, and most have no connectivity."
For this group, Schmidt sees his Google Android smart phones as potentially saving lives.
"Every handset could have a basic medical diagnostic tool built in," he said. "Smart phones don’t have to work on 4G there, they could talk to each other in a mesh network."
Schmidt called the net a "digital watering hole", and saying that for nomadic people embrace technology that improves their lives, citing solar chargers for mobile phones and satellite phones as examples.
“Technology is a leveller, those with nothing will have something,” he added.
With greater access, ideally through fiber optic cable human rights abuses and suffering under dictatorial regimes could lessen.
"There will be fewer places for dictators, it will be easier to organise against dictators - we saw that in the Arab Spring. In times of war and suffering, it will be impossible to ignore cries for help," he added, referencing Assad’s brutality in Syria as an example.
He had high praise for the people who will built this vision. "Developers," he said, "Are the engineers of human freedom.”
Schmidt spoke passionately against internet regulation.
“Do not vulcanise the internet," he said. "Do not give in to anything that will divide the internet, with parts of it managed in different ways, even if it seems logical now. I cannot be emphatic enough."
Schmidt did not mention SOPA, PIPA or ACTA directly, but rather mentioned in the Q & A session that there are "many" ways that governments are trying to regulate the internet.
He said they will fail: "The internet is like water, it will find a way around the restrictions."
Schmidt said 40 countries operate some kind of internet censorship, and 25 countries block Google.
In the Q & A session, he showed a brief glint of humour when an Iranian audience member asked when he would lift the ban on Chrome downloads in Iran. As a US company, Google is barred from trading with Iran under the embargo "We can't violate US law, and in prison, there’s no bandwidth.”