Ostensibly, US President Barack Obama met with the leaders of the high-tech industry to discuss the US economy and jobs creation. But what was the summit really about? Here are some of my own observations about it:
- Jobs was one of the main topics of the summit but Jobs (Steven) was not a significant topic at the summit. Steve Jobs was indeed a participant and is lately the subject of much media scrutiny due to his illness; his presence at the summit was highlighted but was otherwise uneventful.
- Mark Zuckerberg is hot. After being named Times Man of the Year and as the subject of a box office smash hit movie, Zuck is the man. But isn’t it a bit surprising that Obama invited the 26-year-old CEO of a startup that is not even an established company yet?
- Where were Page and Brin, the owners of Google? Why was Eric Schmidt, the soon to be ex-Google CEO, at the summit? I guess that Page and Brin did not want to go, or had better things to do with their time.
- Who is sitting next to Obama? Jobs and Zuckerberg. Why Jobs and Zuckerberg?
- Did Obama use the high-tech summit to promote social media as a tool to shape foreign policy? Facebook and Twitter were highly instrumental in the toppling of the regime in Egypt and in the unrest in other middle-eastern countries such as Iran, Libya and Yemen. By bringing social media to the center of US industry, by strengthening companies such as Facebook and Twitter, Obama may be trying to use this industry as a means to promote his global policy. That may be why Jobs and Zuckerberg were seated right next to the President. Jobs manufactures the leading communications device in the world (the iPhone) while Zuckerberg makes the software that help topples governments. Those and other high-tech platforms can be powerful foreign policy tools in the hands of a US President.