In the first of a number of speeches on the future of technology and the Internet, Eric Schmidt told an audience at Cambridge University of his vision of improved connections, further privacy for kids and even virtual kidnaps.
During the conference, the Google chairman also cast further light on his visit to North Korea – talking at length about his trip and observations on the secretive Asian country.
Mr Schmidt used North Korea as an example of how improved connections will be fundamental in the future.
He described how at present the population there lived in ‘utter information blackout’.
The Google chairman has always been a huge advocate on connecting people and getting everyone online, and was confident a change would eventually come for the five billion people across the globe who are still not connected to the Internet.
Schmidt said: “North Korea reminds me how far we have come.
“That disconnectedness used to be closer to the norm than where we are now.”
He confirmed that he had visited the country as part of his 20% time – an allotted period of time that the firm gives its employees to do something ‘creative’.
Schmidt added: “I decided to go and visit the people in the countries who are future users of the Internet.”
He also visited destinations including Chad, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.
Schmidt said: “There’s no country where the situation has worsened with the arrival of the Internet.
“Citizens can use their mobile phones to raise the cost of corruption. And even in China, the regime can be shamed – when there was a train crash recently the government tried to hush it up, but people began posting pictures on Weibo, and the story got out.
“The strike by journalists at Southern Weekly, over censorship – the fact that they could do that and then go back without trouble shows that the government, even that autocracy, is sensitive to the fact that it can be shamed online.”
Aside from the obvious humanitarian aspect of bringing technology to those previously deprived of it, with Google recently announcing $5obn revenues for the first time, a venture into new countries certainly wouldn’t harm its chance to further boost profit through new Internet marketing prospects.
The Google chairman also delved into the complexities of IDs and privacy for youngsters, suggesting parents may need to warn their children to be careful of their digital footprint in the future – long before any chats about sex.
Schmidt also devoted a hefty amount of his talk to the issue of virtual kidnapping, describing a future where kidnappers could ransom a virtual ID for real money.
He is set to give a series of talks on his view of the technological future over the next couple of months.