Connectivity and freedom of speech was at the core of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s fireside talk to students in Bangkok. He criticised Thailand’s former military government, China, Hong Kong and North Korea for censorship while praising Myanmar for wanting to open up and welcoming the internet and Google into the country.
The boss of Google said that today there are 2.5 billion people online, which means there are 5 billion people who are not. In the next five years, he expects another 4 billion people will go online mostly through the mobile phone.
“For many of those the arrival of their phone will be huge. It will be medicine, education, entertainment. It will be safety. For them, the impact will be huge, huge huge.
“Along the way, not every one of those four billion will be a good person. There will be criminals and terrorists, but on balance it is better to get everyone connected,” he said.
He reasoned that farmers getting information on new crops, animals and prices to make a better life for themselves would outweigh the dangers as people were inherently good.
He assured the audience that private data was safe in the cloud, “depending on whether the National Security Agency is after you or not”. He argued that with modern encryption data is safer with Google than it is in any corporate data center where data is still lost and stolen.
Schmidt said that Bangkok had progressed a lot since his first visit there 15 years ago when there were still elephants on the roads. So far he has seen no elephants and tremendous prosperity.