Last week, the Codewise team had the honor to support a very special event that deeply resonated with both our company’s mission and with my personal life journey. I wanted to share with you my impressions and takeaways from what promises to become an amazing platform for people, governments and companies that strive to make the world a better place.
The Copenhagen Democracy Summit, held for the first time on June 22, is dedicated to strengthening the resolve of the world’s democracies by providing a high-level strategic forum for individuals who believe in democratic institutions and personal freedoms.
Hosted by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Secretary General of NATO and Prime Minister of Denmark, the Summit gathered an incredible constellation of the world’s leading politicians, including the former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden; the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen; the former President of Mexico, Félipe Calderon; the former President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves; the former Prime Minister of Spain, José Maria Aznar; the former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, as well as hundreds of other participants from international government organizations, largest companies and leading media.
I was very pleased to see that one of the key themes discussed at the Summit was the relationship and the mutual dependence between Democracy and Technology, especially the aspects of fake news and ad fraud that we combat here at Codewise every day. I was honored to take part in the keynote panel moderated by BBC celebrity anchor Stephen Sackur with Michael Chertoff, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Christopher Krebs, U.S. Undersecretary of Homeland Security; and Joanna Shields, former UK Minister for Internet Security & Safety, to discuss how we can protect our society from cyber attackers and hostile propaganda. I hope that our team’s expertise in combating ad fraud perpetrated by hackers on a daily basis helped me educate the audience and provide them with useful and actionable insights. I am extremely proud of the research and knowledge accumulated by Codewise, and I was happy to share some of it during the Summit, both on and off stage.
Later, as I was listening to diverse perspectives and insights offered by other Summit speakers, I couldn’t help but think about my own family’s quest for freedom and the profound relationship between Democracy and Technology that I saw in my home country, Poland.
Forty-six years ago, my father escaped the Communist regime in Poland and moved to Western Europe, where my mom later joined him. I was born in the United Kingdom in 1986, with every opportunity to enjoy the liberties that my parents’ compatriots were deprived of at the time. Soon after the fall of the Communist government, my family returned to Poland to take part in its socioeconomic revival. After the communist regime was overthrown, Poland experienced an incredible revival of technology, business, entrepreneurial spirit. It was amazing to witness firsthand how democracy changed people’s lives and gave an enormous boost to innovation, entrepreneurship and technological development. It was astonishing to watch the country change and become more globalized from year to year. The people of Poland did not change after the fall of Communism, what had changed was their freedom to put these qualities to work as they saw fit, and this change made the whole world of difference.
Having witnessed the incredible growth over the last two decades, it couldn’t be more clear to me that freedom and democracy are the pillarstones for technology innovation and economic prosperity. Poland and Eastern Europe are not the only examples of this phenomenon. The whole world is familiar with the sad story of the two Koreas, and their very different track record of technology innovation and economic development, despite being populated by the same gifted and hardworking people.
It is thanks to these basic freedoms – of enterprise, thought and innovation – that Codewise was able to go from being a small team of 5 people to one of the fastest-growing technology vendors in Europe in just a few years since its inception. During this journey, I learned many priceless life lessons, the most important one being that freedom and democracy are much more than just a system for electing government officials. I have learned from experience that democratic company governance and freedom of thought and expression among employees foster creativity like nothing else and allow companies to innovate at the speed that would be impossible in a bureaucratized corporation.
But lately, we have learned another important lesson, that freedom never comes for free and needs to be protected relentlessly. Today, democracy is being jeopardized around the world, which undermines our liberties and threatens our future. Rival powers and domestic extremist groups alike are meddling in democratic elections, while ad fraudsters who serve the meddlers’ interests remain many steps ahead of the anti-fraud organizations, regulators and internet watchdogs. The illegal ad fraud industry makes tens of billions of Euros per year, and I expect that it will soon exceed the global turnover of the illegal drugs trade, being a much easier and safer source of income for criminals. Major brands and the world’s biggest advertisers bleed billions of ad dollars to the benefit of digital fraudsters, unwillingly funding their operations and helping them to expand to other areas, such as election manipulation.
I believe that in today’s world every company needs to step up and be a responsible corporate citizen by acknowledging this critical threat and starting to implement technology solutions against it. This is especially true for our industry, Advertising Technology, which suddenly found itself at the forefront of the global fight for democracy. I believe that the Ad Industry both plays an important role and bears a responsibility to protect election integrity and democracy around the world. We should not only develop technology to detect and block election meddling, manipulation and fraud, but work with policymakers to ensure that the necessary policies are enacted and introduced in an accurate and timely manner. And I call to my fellow technology innovators to join our forces on combating ad fraud and eliminating the lack of transparency in the global digital advertising ecosystem that made it so easy for bad actors to achieve their goals.
I sincerely believe that the inaugural Copenhagen Democracy Summit took us one big step closer to addressing this global challenge, for ourselves and for future generations. I look forward to the next steps and future meetings of the exceptional group of people from all over the world who were brought together by our common cause – protecting Democracy.
Robert Gryn, CEO, Codewise