UK PM Gordon Brown has hailed the internet for bringing about a new era in society; “the start of a truly global society.”
The Prime Minister made a surprise keynote at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference.
Brown opened his speech with the iconic image of the young Kim Phúc, and expressed how this one picture had shifted American opinion on the Vietnam War.
Using other symbolic pictures, such as from the Tiananmen Square protests, Brown summarised that such images are vessels of communication that carry across the world; through religions, values and cultures.
“What we see [in these pictures] unlocks the invisible ties and bonds of sympathy that bring us together to become a human community.”
"But what’s new,” he added, “is that we now have the capacity to communicate instantaneously across the world.
“A unique age in human history, and is the start of what I would call the creation of a truly global society.
Brown – who was roundly ridiculed back in April for disabling comments on his YouTube videos – went on to emphasise the web’s impact on politics.
In particular, he highlighted the role of technology in recent elections in Zimbabwe.
"Because people were able to take mobile phone photographs of what was happening at polling stations, it was impossible for [Robert Mugabe] to fix that election in the way that he wanted to do," he said.
Brown concluded that the new internet era can tackle global problems such as climate change.
Many environmental groups have for years been of a different opinion, fearing – for instance – irreversible environmental damage if the rising middle classes in India and China adopt a tech-heavy middle-class lifestyle that remains prominent in the west.