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 finally will be in a position to address this issue at scale, which for me comes full circle, as my early work at the dawn of the internet, with my GII Junior Summit fellow participants, some 25 years ago, 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, but the Japanese delegation noted a glaring omission: the people most affected by the global information society – young people – were utterly unrepresented. A few months later, I along with 40 other young people from 12 nations were selected and convened for a summit in Tokyo. I was 17, and the Internet was in its infancy.

The GII Junior Summit focused on the opportunities that the rapidly rising Internet could provide. Over 500 young technology enthusiasts around the globe discussed for months via the Internet before 41 students 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.

Laetitia at the GII Jr. Summit in Japan (1995)

We were a group of young individuals committed to breaking down barriers of distance, language and culture. We debated issues ranging from the environment to communications, war and peace to education. Some of my fellow participants 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.

Nicholas Negroponte, Media Lab Director at the GII Jr Summit in Japan (1995)

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 continues to provide opportunities to young people for learning, capacity-building, cross-cultural awareness, and self-development through the use of Information and Communication Technologies.

Jack Fujida & Laetitia Garriott celebrating the 13th anniversary of GII Junior Summit '95
Jack Fujida & Laetitia Garriott celebrating the 13th anniversary of GII Jr Summit ’95 (2008)

Upon returning to France, I became determined to share with French youth the incredible opportunities that the Internet 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.