Bridging the connectivity gap is the first moonshot I worked on, in the mid 1990’s in the early days of the World Wide Web – one that, space-based broadband, 30 years later, empowers us to solve at scale.
Deploying space-based broadband connectivity systems unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, as SpaceX and Lynk are building, will be key to bridging the connectivity divide. As an early investor in both companies, I am incredibly excited that we are finally in a position to address this issue at scale, which for me comes full circle, as my early work at the dawn of the World Wide Web, with my GII Junior Summit fellow participants, some 25 years ago, on this very issue, is what introduced me to folks like Nicholas Negroponte, Founder of the MIT Media Lab, who became my sponsor on my path to US citizenship.
In 1995 the European Commission hosted a G7 roundtable on the Global Information Society. Alongside the 1995 GII Junior Summit gets organized to get the youth involved on the opportunities that the rise of the World Wide Web could provide. I was 17, and the World Wide Web was in its infancy.
Over 500 young technology enthusiasts from around the world discussed for months via the Internet before 41 of us were selected and convened in Tokyo for a 4 day summit, at which “the adults” – ranging from high level government officials to prominent industrialists – found room only in the audience.
We were a group of young individuals committed to breaking down barriers of distance, language and culture, fascinated about the World Wide Web and its potential important impacts on societal challenges ranging from the environment and communications, to war and peace and education. Some pparticipants composed and rehearsed music collaboratively through the Internet and performed live together for the first time in Tokyo. We dreamed about creating a country in cyberspace, not defined by geography or race, but by technology and age. Because uniting youth changes perspective, widens understanding, and leads to a better world.
Thanks in a large part to Nicholas Negroponte, founder and Chairman Emeritus of the MIT Media Lab, our new “nation” – Nation.1 – was officially announced to the UN in 1997 (read or download the Nation.1 Constitution). A few years later, Nation.1 was incorporated as a non-profit organization and merged with TakingITGlobal in 2001 which continued to provide opportunities to young people for learning, capacity-building, cross-cultural awareness, and self-development through the use of Information and Communication Technologies.
Upon returning to France, I became determined to share with French youth the incredible opportunities that the World Wide Web offered. My dream was to create the first Internet club in a French high school and fortunately I had some new colleagues who happily supplied us with hardware: Jack Fujieda, Secretary General of the GII Junior Summit, and the late Isao Okawa, one of the early pioneers of the Japanese IT industry who founded CSK Holdings and served as Chairman of SEGA. The second junior summit in 1998 allowed us to take it to a new level with a select group of over 3,300 online participants from 139 different nations and 200 in-person participants who were sent back home with the hardware necessary to start Internet clubs in their own communities.
Through my participation in the GII Junior Summit, I understood early on and have remained all these years a big fan of moonshots and leveraging the power of competition as a way to inspire, catalyze innovation and accelerate more hopeful futures – which I have the chance to continue today through the great work of the XPRIZE Foundation.