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World Economic Forum to decide Net's future

Well, egotists and leaders plan to have a chat

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As you will probably know, the World Economic Forum is currently taking place in Davos, Switzerland (bottom right-hand corner) where 3,200 heads of state and top CEOs will get together and discuss what they think they ought to do to make the world better/safer/richer.

Among them will be Bill Gates and the founder and chairman of eBay, Pierre Omidyar. They, along with others, will be continuing the conversation that started at the G8 meeting in Japan. There they decided that what the Third World needed was to buy lots of computers and routers from the West. We didn't quite agree.

Of course, they'll be discussing plenty of other things, but apart from the main topics, most of what you'll read in the press will concern the inevitable riots from anti-globalisation protestors that last year turned the city into a war zone.

While one group of less powerful folk (called the World Social Forum) protest at the trampling of civil rights, the exploitation of peoples and cultures and the gradual transformation of ethics into profits, another group will be heavily protected and discuss global matters that they hope to benefit from.

Bill Gates has already kicked off the Forum (in his new guise as world health saviour) by pledging $100 million to AIDS research and challenging others to stump up the remaining $450 million required for new vaccines to the world killer. Tonight at 7.15pm (GMT), he will be one of several speakers at the Seizing the Global Digital Opportunity chit-chat. This will be webcast on the Net and can be found here (although you will need Real Player 7, so download the extras beforehand).

The main topics, apparently, will be how the Net can be policed, who has the right to tax Net-based purchases and how mobiles will change the world. It should prove interesting viewing. There's a little bit of ivory-tower philosophy going on here and those at the conference risk getting policies on the Internet as wrong as they have with other aspects of globalisation. Fortunately, UN top dog Kofi Annan has his head screwed on and has suggested that businesses pay a little more attention to people's cultures before piling in with global goods.

That said, one group has come up with an interesting way of making a non-violent point. Web site www.HelloMrPresident.com is offering everyone the chance to have a message (up to 160 characters) projected onto the mountains by the conference centre. The site has installed a huge laser, pointing at the mountains, and broadcasts messages on the mountain in letters 50 foot high between 6pm and 11pm (GMT). Of course, it gets to censor any messages.

We look forward to seeing what the conflagration of so many great minds will produce (the world leaders, we mean).

Incidentally, has anyone else felt the need to call the venue Davros, after the leader of the Daleks in Doctor Who? It seems to fit a little too well. Davros sole aim in life, as far as we can remember, was world domination. ®

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