John Gage, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and its chief researcher, begun pitching an idea to a few other big technology companies present at the United Nations-hosted Internet summit in Tunis: How about a global gathering for technical people shaping the Internet?
"What's really missing in the documents signed here is the need to spend money on bringing together engineers, students and others designing the Internet -- from all countries and all levels of wealth," said Gage, who squeezed a brief interview into his busy schedule Friday at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). "Let them meet, eat together, share experiences and talk about direction."
In Gage's eyes, the summit has been "a good thing" in bringing governments, educators, civil rights activists and other nontechnical people together to rub shoulders and debate the future role of the Net. "An enormous educational process has taken place here and over the past two years since the first summit," he said.
Engineers and others dealing technically with the Internet from all corners of the Earth could also benefit from the opportunity to meet and discuss, Gage believes. "The many voices of all those people building the Internet around the world aren't always heard," he said.
Gage pointed to the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Society as groups that provide opportunities for dialog. "But where are the engineers from the Central African Republic?" he asked. "Is anyone putting money into a fund to bring them into the conversation?"
There's a lack of understanding in industrialized nations for the day-to-day challenges of those living in developing countries, according to Gage.
"We assume that going to a cheap hotel in Orlando is a possibility for everybody; it's not," he said. "What people from richer countries don't see as barriers are real barriers for people in Africa."
While in Tunis, Tunisia, Gage discussed the idea of funding a global gathering for Internet engineers and the likes with several of the big companies exhibiting at the event, including Cisco Systems, Google and Microsoft.
Who should also step up and pay? "Telephone companies, computer companies and network-based enterprises, for instance," said Gage. "We need to send the message back into technology companies how important it is to support those who make the Internet work."