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Friday, December 15, 2006

Politicians Woo Internet Crowd In Paris

By Jennifer L. Schenker

Politics intersected with technology Tuesday as Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and two of France’s three presidential hopefuls addressed a Paris Internet conference attended by 1,000 tech entrepreneurs, bloggers and venture capitalists from 37 countries.

Mr. Peres told the audience, which included start-ups plus executives from Microsoft, Technorati, Orange, and Google that they have an important role to play to bring about peace and a better world. “The world is not a mess, it is pregnant with a new age,” said Mr. Peres. “You people of the Internet are really trying to give birth to this sort of thing, this new age,” he said. “You are the midwife of this process…you liberated us from having to invest a great effort to remember things.”

“Why should we remember things? The past is full of troubles and wars, why should we try to waste our intellect to remember. Now we can just go to Google,” he said.

That is a good thing, because “the task of a human being is not to remember but to imagine, to create, to discover,” he said, pointing out that a country’s prowess is no longer measured in its physical size “but by the number of patents it files.”

In an interview with Red Herring Mr. Peres pointed to the importance of clean tech and nanotechnology - areas in which Israel has strengths.

Beyond technology, bloggers at the conference asked Mr. Peres what they could do to help relieve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“In my judgment, I told my American friends, instead of going to other countries with ideologies, governments, armies, come with your private sector “ he said, explaining that building schools and helping to build modern economies will do more to bring about change than politics can.

Later in the day French presidential candidates Francois Bayrou of France’s centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) and Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, of the ruling right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) addressed the audience, tackling issues such as Internet regulation.

Their aim was to get the political support of local bloggers. France claims to have among the highest percentage of bloggers in the world—one out of every three people—and their opinions could have an impact on the outcome of the election. Loic Le Meur, a well-known French blogger and serial entrepreneur who organized the two-day Paris conference, has already endorsed Mr. Sarkozy for president on his blog.

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