Q&A with Campus Party Founder Paco Ragageles

By David Knight |

Paco Ragageles speaking at the Campus Party housewarming

Campus Party is coming to Berlin – 10,000 tech folk will gather at Tempelhof Airport in August for a massive meeting of minds. It’s uncharted territory for the event, which began in Spain in 1997, and things kicked off on Wednesday night with a special housewarming party in Kreuzberg.

In between enjoying the free booze and food, Silicon Allee managed to grab a few seconds with Campus Party founder Paco Ragageles.

SILICON ALLEE: Why did you decide to bring Campus Party to Berlin?

PACO RAGAGELES: Five months ago, when we started to think about taking this edition of Campus Party to Germany, we were considering different places – Munich, Frankfurt, Hanover, and Berlin. I don’t remember who first told me about Tempelhof, but I knew of its existence and we decided to go visit it. In the first moment when I entered it, I could feel that this was the place. It is really, really special. At that moment, I didn’t know the story of Temepelhof, but after that when people told me the history I thought it was incredible. And it maybe makes a parallel – after the Second World War, it was at Tempelhof that Germany found itself again. Our mission is to redesign a new Europe, to retype the European source code, and doing it in the same place sounds like a cool idea.

SA: What do you mean when you talk about ‘retyping the European source code’?

PR: One of the principal supporters for this project is a vice president at the European Commission, Neelie Kroes. Neelie is an incredible woman and her vision is to recreate the European digital agenda. When we started to think in terms of how Campus Party can help do this, we thought that this other parallel: if the laws are the source code of the digital agenda, and we think in terms of source code, we need to retype the source code of laws. We need to look at the basics of security, copyright, privacy, piracy…

SA: What are you hoping to achieve with the event in Berlin?

PR: Civilisation is really in crisis because of different reasons. The bank model is crazy; the EU needs redesigning. But geek culture, the people of our generation, are not involved in the process – maybe we are saying it’s not our problem; we are focusing on other things, we don’t participate. For me it is important to build awareness in as many people as possible that it is important to be involved in this recreation of society. It is not enough to only say, ‘this is a bad war,’ and so on. You need to participate, propose new things, get involved.

SA: So there is a political aspect to Campus Party?

PR: For me, politics means talking about all of society. I’m not talking in terms of (political) parties. Our generation is sad about politics, and because of that they are not involved in the process. I want young people to get more involved… The geek generation needs to connect and empower the world.

SA: How important is the European Commission to the event?

PR: Think in terms of the cost of the event to the participants – around €200 for a week, 600 hours of lectures, sleeping accommodation. How can we manage that? With the strong support of the authorities. If we passed on the real cost of renting Tempelhof and all the other things, the connectivity and so on, it would be impossible for people to pay. And the volume of people is really important. Without working with both the private and pubic sectors, it would be impossible.

SA: A lot of people have come out for the housewarming party. How important is it that Berlin embraces Campus Party?

PR: For us it is critical to involve the local people in the event and in every edition of Campus Party in the past, we achieved that. Normally we need a year to organise the event, and this time we only had half a year. I hope this first step will help start the noise and more people will want to be involved.

SA: On a technical note, are you really going to provide wifi access for 10,000 people?

PR: We have 16 years of experience with this problem – even at the first edition of Campus Party we had some wifi technology. It’s a big problem. But for this event, we will build a special installation to test new wifi technology with Telefonica and Nokia Siemens. I hope it works, but cross your fingers because it’s not easy!