Event Will View Web 2.0 Solutions for Global Problems

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, cycling legend Lance Armstrong and several technology industry CEOs will discuss this week how Internet technologies can help solve global problems.

Now in its fifth year, Web 2.0 Summit will focus this time on using the Web to tackle major challenges in areas such as health care, climate change, politics and finance, according to event producers O'Reilly Media and TechWeb.

CEOs including Yahoo's Jerry Yang, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Intel's Paul Otellini and MySpace's Chris DeWolfe will also participate in the conference, which runs from Wednesday to Friday in San Francisco.

Web 2.0 innovations such as blogs, wikis, social networks and syndicated feeds have hit the consumer and workplace mainstream, becoming an integral part of many people's daily lives, so it's natural to attempt to use them to tackle big problems, said industry analyst Charlene Li.

"Web 2.0 isn't just an isolated technology. Web 2.0 changes relationships and the way people communicate, and because of that, it also changes the way we approach problem-solving, too," said Li, founder of Altimeter Group, a provider of speaking and consulting services around emerging and social technologies.

Because a common thread in Web 2.0 is harnessing the wisdom of crowds and promoting widespread collaboration, these technologies and services lend themselves naturally to addressing large, complex problems that defy simple solutions, she said.

"Simple problems can be dealt with by two people in one organization. They can come up with a decision and make it work. But these problems, like climate change and health care, are so complex that you need a lot of different people in multiple places all contributing to the solution," Li said.

The event, of course, will also touch on the Internet business and serve as a place for attendees to network and seek customers and providers. That's what motivated Mike Trotzke to make the trip from Bloomington, Indiana.

Trotzke and his partners sold their company, Resite Information Technology, about 18 months ago, and in recent months have started building a new one called SproutBox, which is expected to launch in February or March of next year.

SproutBox will invest in technology startups, but with a twist: Instead of investing just cash, it will provide a slate of services, such as software development, accounting and human resources, in exchange for stakes in the companies. "Most of our investments will be in the Web-based, software-as-a-service [SaaS] space," Trotzke said.

During his "scouting mission" to Web 2.0 Summit, Trotzke hopes to contact entrepreneurs who might be interested in SproutBox's help; learn about the latest trends in venture capital and Web startups; and identify possible marketing and public relations consultants to represent his company.

Other speakers include Larry Brilliant, the executive director of Google.org, the search-engine giant's philanthropic arm, and Shai Agassi, the former SAP president of products and technology who founded and heads electric-car company Better Place.

Also on hand will be Edgar Bronfman, the CEO of Warner Music, who will share the stage with MySpace's DeWolfe to talk about the music industry's future.

New York Magazine's contributing editor, John Heilemann, will moderate a panel about the Web and politics with participants including Arianna Huffington from The Huffington Post and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

There will also be panels about technology hot topics such as cloud computing, SaaS, Web application development platforms and mobile Internet services.

As in previous years, John Battelle, chairman of Federated Media Publishing, will act as program chair and interview most of the keynote speakers on stage.

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